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In the coming months, The Shift will spend an indeterminable amount of time at the Appeals Tribunal, sitting through an unprecedented 30 appeals (and counting) filed by government entities, who, in what clearly seems to be a coordinated effort, are challenging the Data Protection Commissioner's ruling to disclose information.
We need your help
Anyone who has ever had the experience of going to court for a single case can only imagine what hurdles await for 30. We are a small organisation that depends on funding and donations to survive, and will be up against 30 government entities all backed by state funding! Not only will these legal challenges eat away at The Shift’s finances, but they will also cost us time and resources – which can otherwise be spent following up on leads and exposing wrongdoing.
What is the fight about?
Through the Freedom of Information Act, The Shift had sought to obtain all contracts and payments made between government entities and Media Today’s Saviour Balzan, as well as all his commercial entities, on public relations services provided. The request was denied by multiple entities. The Commissioner overruled, and now at least 30 government entities, ranging from the Education Ministry and the Gozo Ministry to Identity Malta and Projects Malta (Malta Strategic Partnership Projects), are appealing the Commissioner’s decision. One by one, the entities filed virtually identical appeals pushing back on the decision to grant the information in the public interest regarding the use of these public funds.
Why is it important?
The information The Shift had requested from the different government entities is in the public interest and concerns public authorities administered through the public purse. As government watchdogs, the media has an obligation to report such information. As the Data Commissioner Ian Deguara rightfully pointed out in defence of his decision, the FOI act is “designed to ensure the greatest possible transparency and promote accountability in public authorities, by enabling to the extent possible, the exercise of the right of access to documents held by the public authorities”.
"The fact that persons and companies are being paid by public funds certainly leads to the expectation that the public has to know where money went, to whom, and why," Deguara added.
The fact that the entities are challenging the ruling has implications on press freedom. In fact, one of the appeals was also registered as a “violation” by European press freedom watchdog Mapping Media Freedom.
One of our international partners, press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders, has also expressed solidarity with The Shift throughout this challenge.
In addition, seven international press freedom groups have come together to voice their support for The Shift, urging the government entities to drop the "highly concerning" appeals.
We would especially like to thank Andrew Borg Cardona and Matthew Cutajar from BCGL Advocates who have offered to defend us in this case pro bono.
We're determined to see this challenge through, and that is why we're reaching out to our readers to help keep us going.
The funds collected will go towards fees connected to the case. As the only newsroom who has been consistently transparent with our readers on income and expenditure, we pledge to keep our word with you this time too - providing backers with full transparency on how the amount fundraised is spent.
The Shift wins ten challenges to Freedom of Information requestsUpdate posted by The Shift News at 10:47 am
Good news! Ten government entities resisting a decision by the Information and Data Protection Commissioner (IDPC) to hand over to The Shift financial information about Media Today’s co-owner Saviour Balzan’s contracts have been ordered to follow the Commissioner’s orders.Thanks to your support The Shift has been able to fight back!In. . . . .