Respecting the media
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
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?