Malta's Commissioner Highlights Issues with Standards in Public Life Act

Malta's public life standards need reform: Commissioner cites OECD report, calls for longer investigation periods, formal ad rules, and more transparency to improve public trust and media freedom.

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Nimrah Khatoon
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Malta's Commissioner Highlights Issues with Standards in Public Life Act

Malta's Commissioner Highlights Issues with Standards in Public Life Act

The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life in Malta has pointed out key problems with the country's Standards in Public Life Act, citing recommendations from a recent OECD report. In a statement released on April 21, 2024, the Commissioner noted that the Act has brief prescriptive periods that hinder investigations into potential breaches and lacks formal rules to govern government advertising.

According to the Commissioner, the current law does not allow for the investigation of acts that occurred before it came into force in October 2018. Additionally, complaints must be filed within one year or 30 working days of becoming aware of the alleged breach. The OECD report, which was finalized in October 2023, recommended increasing these prescriptive periods and expanding asset declaration requirements for public officials.

Another issue highlighted by the Commissioner is the lack of legal standing for advertising guidelines. The OECD report suggested making these guidelines into formal rules to ensure transparency and prevent abuse in government advertising practices. The Commissioner also proposed allowing the publication of decisions not to investigate complaints, emphasizing that past decisions do not set precedents and each case is evaluated on its own merits.

Why this matters for social: The Commissioner's statement and the OECD report underscore the need for stronger transparency and accountability measures in Malta's public life. Addressing the identified issues in the Standards in Public Life Act could help improve public trust in government institutions and officials.

The Commissioner's recommendations come amidst ongoing concerns about press freedom and the influence of political parties on media in Malta. In May 2022, the country dropped six places in the World Press Freedom Index, marking its worst ranking ever. Journalists have been operating in a highly polarized environment, with the ruling party allegedly exerting pressure on public and private media through advertising and other means.

The Commissioner's statement emphasizes the importance of implementing the reforms recommended by the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. It also highlights the need for the government to demonstrate its commitment to protecting journalism by defending journalists from harassment, threats, and assaults. As Malta continues to grapple with issues of transparency and media freedom, the Commissioner's recommendations serve as a reminder of the work that still needs to be done to strengthen public trust and accountability.

Key Takeaways

  • Malta's Standards in Public Life Act has issues, per OECD report and Commissioner.
  • Act has brief prescriptive periods, lacks rules for government advertising.
  • OECD recommended increasing prescriptive periods, expanding asset declarations.
  • Lack of legal standing for advertising guidelines, need for transparency.
  • Reforms needed to address press freedom concerns and strengthen public trust.