Ministers shouldn’t discriminate between media houses, Standards Commissioner says

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler finds that former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat discriminated between media houses when he failed to invite Newsbook to a press conference

Standards Commissioner George Hyzler found that former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat discriminated against media houses when he failed to invite Newsbook for a press conference at Castille
Standards Commissioner George Hyzler found that former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat discriminated against media houses when he failed to invite Newsbook for a press conference at Castille

Commissioner for Standards in Public Life George Hyzler has concluded that it would be discrimination and a breach of ethics if a minister invited some media houses but not others to press conferences or other events organised by him or her.

The case related to a complaint by Sylvana Debono, editor-in-chief of Newsbook.com.mt, against former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Debono had complained that on 22 November 2019, Muscat, who was Prime Minister at the time, had invited the media to Castille to give a statement about the investigations on the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, but failed to invite Newsbook.

The Commissioner found that there were occasions when Muscat gave comments to journalists who had been waiting for him outside Castille.

On 22 November 2019, however, his communications office sent for the media, but it did so selectively.

The reason given for this by the communications office was that the event was held at very short notice.

The Commissioner concluded that once it was the Prime Minister who sent for the media, he was obliged to issue the invitation to all media houses, which could have been done by email in a matter of minutes.

The obligation does not restrict a minister’s right to grant an interview or take part in an event at the request of a particular media house, Hyzler said.

The Commissioner therefore upheld the complaint, and referred to case report issued on 4 February 2019, in which he had addressed a similar issue.

Hyzler did not consider it necessary to recommend any remedial action since Muscat has since resigned as prime minister.

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