The Office of the Prime Minister said it did not interfere in ministers’ decisions on which media houses are invited to their events, backing Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi’s habit of not issuing official press calls.
Replying to questions by Times of Malta, a spokesman for the Office of the Prime Minister said ministries felt certain events would decide "merited full media coverage and others which are not deemed as important announcements".
It is not unusual for Dr Mizzi not to issue press calls via the Department of Information when attending events where he speaks and even gives comments to the media present. On more than one occasion, he invited only the Labour Party television channel (ONE) and the national broadcaster (TVM) to cover his events, with the independent media only finding out about them through his social media platforms.
This was the case on Tuesday, when the minister visited the Malta Film Studios and only ONE and TVM were informed. Other media houses only found about the event after Dr Mizzi uploaded videos on his Instagram page.
Hide and seek tactics and unacceptable behaviour
According to the code of ethics, ministers have to inform the public and the media of their activities "on a regular basis and in an organised manner".
Prior to any activity, interview or statement, they must also seek approval from the Office of the Prime Minister.
Asked whether the Office of the Prime Minister was aware that Dr Mizzi was in breach of the code of ethics, the spokesman replied that “all ministers followed the code with regard to issues related to communications”.
“The Office of the Prime Minister does not interfere in such decisions [issuing press calls]. We are informed that the case you refer to was related to a small feature about an infrastructural project by the Malta Film Studios,” the spokesman added.
In a statement, the Institute of Maltese Journalists criticised Dr Mizzi’s “hide and seek tactics” and “unacceptable behaviour”, insisting that access to government events was a “right not privilege”.
“The IĠM contends that this is a deliberately discriminatory tactic to exclude sections of the Maltese press from putting questions to the minister that could force him to explain serious allegations of ministerial misconduct,” it commented.
Questions sent to Dr Mizzi only got a brief reply.
“The event you are referring to was not a press conference but a minor feature related to the infrastructural works at the Malta Film Studios,” a spokesman said.