19 July 2006

The Web
Business Today

Politicians in newsrooms, “an absurd anachronism” – Aidan White, IFJ secretary general

Government intends publishing a Freedom of Information Act by year’s end according to an official in the prime minister’s office.
Reacting to statements made during the first seminar organised by the Journalists’ Committee on Monday, a government official insisted that the OPM was currently drafting legislation on the subject.
The Journalists’ Committee hosted the International Federation of Journalists’ general secretary Aidan White and Statewatch editor Tony Bunyan for its seminar on Freedom of Information.
Both speakers spoke about the considerable wall of silence journalists face in their bid to gain information vital to the public interest. Tony Bunyan’s challenge against the European Union’s secretive structure of information reveals how Maltese journalists have to investigate and query about decisions affecting the Maltese islands as discussions unfold in the European Council, much before these decisions trickle down to the national agenda.
This challenge represents part of the new role for Maltese journalists to look into the European agenda and tackle important issues facing Maltese society, even before these issues reach the national agenda.
White said that freedom of information was vital at a time when headlines were dominated by fears of terrorism and the ugliness of the intractable conflict in the Middle East. Every government, Malta included, should provide its citizens with legal access to official information, at all levels of government and administration.
Discussing Malta’s situation where political parties actually owned media and used it heavily for their propaganda, White said that time had come for the owners to allow editorial freedom and set aside political interference. The current political division in broadcasting and some of the press when politicians should not be in the newsroom was an absurd anachronism, White said.
The IFJ general secretary called on journalists to stick together to protect professionalism, defend working conditions and to ensure that they could deliver the accurate and reliable information people increasingly need to improve their lives.
The Journalists’ Committee has expressed its intention to draft its principles for a Freedom of Information Act, which will be then passed on to the Office of the Prime Minister.

Business Today is published weekly on Wednesdays.
Website is updated weekly on Thursdays
Copyright © MediaToday., Malta
Managing Editor - Saviour Balzan
Editor: Kurt Sansone
Business Today, MediaToday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
Tel: (356) 2138 2741 | Fax: (356) 2138 5075 | E-mail