Re­spect­ing the me­dia

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

It has be­come a habit for this gov­ern­ment to call a press con­fer­ence min­utes be­fore it is due to start. With traf­fic be­ing what it is – we do not own he­li­copters – it is hard to ar­rive in time. This, to us, is sheer lack of re­spect.

Let’s ex­plain how it works. In the evening, some time af­ter 6pm and, on oc­ca­sions, quite late in the evening, the Depart­ment of In­for­ma­tion is­sues a list of events the me­dia is in­vited to for the next day. It helps us to plan the day ahead, with jour­nal­ists as­signed to the dif­fer­ent min­is­te­rial ac­tiv­i­ties.

Very of­ten, this DOI list con­tains events that are not in­ter­est­ing to jour­nal­ists and the pub­lic at large. Open­ing of ex­hi­bi­tions, vis­its here and there, noth­ing big un­less it pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for us to ask a min­is­ter some ques­tions re­lat­ing to sub­jects not con­nected with the event it­self. You know, min­is­ters are not very much avail­able for di­rect com­ments, and when we try to seek some an­swers we have to go through the long bu­reau­cratic

Ed­i­tor’s pick

pro­ce­dures that take their time. Thank­fully, most min­is­ters do take di­rect ques­tions when we turn up at these events. But what is hap­pen­ing – and what has been hap­pen­ing since the start of this leg­is­la­ture – is that the most im­por­tant events are omit­ted from the list of DOI cov­er­ages that is pro­vided in the evening for the fol­low­ing day. These im­por­tant events are made known to the me­dia only min­utes be­fore they are due to be held.

Just to give the lat­est ex­am­ple, the OPM in­vited the me­dia to at­tend a Prime Min­is­ter’s press con­fer­ence last Tues­day, the day af­ter the bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion. We re­ceived the in­vi­ta­tion at 2.25pm, with the event sched­uled to start at 3pm. Need­less to say, with all the traf­fic con­ges­tion we found be­tween St Ju­lian’s and Val­letta, not to men­tion the park­ing prob­lem, we barely made it.

The thing is, it was clear that this press con­fer­ence had been planned for quite a while. It wasn’t some­thing the OPM thought of at the last minute. It was not a press con­fer­ence to deal with a crisis, some­thing that came up abruptly. And yet the press call was is­sued just over half an hour be­fore it started.

This is not the only time it hap­pened. We’ve had oc­ca­sions when we re­ceived press calls dur­ing the night or early morn­ing for events that are tak­ing place at 8am or 9am. What does the gov­ern­ment think? That we don’t sleep?

Mind you, it is not the Depart­ment of In­for­ma­tion’s fault. They is­sue the press calls as soon as they ar­rive, and so it is clear that it is a strat­egy that is planned from much higher up.

The ques­tion is: why does this hap­pen? Why does the gov­ern­ment make it so dif­fi­cult? Does it hope that the press call is re­ceived so late so that we will not be able to make it? Is it afraid of the ques­tions we are go­ing to ask?

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