Malta

   

Quality of Democracy

#33
Key Findings
Despite effective and impartial electoral laws, Malta scores relatively poorly in international comparison (rank 33) with regard to the quality of democracy. Its score in this area has improved by 0.5 points relative to 2014.

A recently passed law governs political-party donations, but the courts have thrown uncertainty into the enforcement process. While recent press-law reforms have eased the threat of libel for journalists, but press advocates say further strides are needed. Investigations into the murder of a prominent journalist examining corruption have led to political and economic elites.

Civil rights and political liberties are generally respected. Discrimination on the basis of political affiliation remains a problem, and women are underrepresented in many social areas. Sub-Saharan migrants in particular face broad levels of discrimination. The increased number of asylum seekers has led to deteriorating conditions.

Though anti-corruption measures have been strengthened, observers have called for stronger money-laundering regulations. Conflicts of interest remain common. There is little transparency in allocating public contracts. A new, less politicized judicial-appointments process is being developed, and a number of appointments made under the old system are being challenged.

Electoral Processes

#36

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

10
 9

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
 8
 7
 6


A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
 5
 4
 3


Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
 2
 1

Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
Candidacy Procedures
9
Elections are regulated by the constitution and the General Elections Act. Malta uses a single transferable vote (STV) system. Candidates can stand either as independents or as members of a political party. Parties can field as many candidates as they wish, and candidates may choose to stand in two electoral districts. If elected in both districts, a candidate will cede their second seat. The vacated seat is then assigned to the candidate with the most second preference votes on the ballot. The system allows for a diversity of candidates and restrictions are minimal, though legal restrictions based on residency, certain official functions and court judgments exist. There have been persistent calls for electoral-system reform on the basis of several issues. These include the lack of an official national minimum threshold; the fact that candidates are listed alphabetically, giving an advantage to certain candidates; the lack of correctives to encourage the election of female candidates; and the fact that multiple candidates from the same party can be elected in the same district, placing too much power in the hands of canvassers. The present electoral law does not allow coalitions of parties to contest elections formally, but does not prevent parties from arriving at pre-election agreements regarding future coalitions. Recent provisions ensure greater proportionality; however, the reality is that this has only increased the dominance of the two main parties. Each of the two main parties receive €100,000 annually, which may be used for campaigning. There has been increased calls to ban party funding from the private sector and replace it with a more developed system of state funding. Meetings of the electoral commission are closed and there is an absence of representatives from non-parliamentary parties. On the issue of equal gender representation, the government has appointed a commission to study the issue, and new gender-parity laws are now in the pipeline.

Citations:
Malta Today 05/07/17 Now is the time for Electoral reform
OSCE/ODIHR (2017) Election Assessment Mission Final Report – Malta
Lejn Rapprezentanza Ugwali – Kummissjoni Mahtur mill-Prim Ministru ta’ Malta, OPM.

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

10
 9

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
 8
 7
 6


Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
 5
 4
 3


Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
 2
 1

Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media Access
5
Malta has both state and private media. The Maltese constitution provides for a Broadcasting Authority (BA). Owing to its composition and appointment procedure, the BA is not perceived as an independent regulator. Its job is to supervise broadcasting and ensure impartiality. However, the BA focuses on the PBS (public broadcasting service) and not private outlets. It also does not monitor campaign coverage but rather acts on complaints. During elections, the BA provides for equal time for the two major political parties on state television on its own political debate programs as well as airtime for political advertising. The 2018 Media Monitor assigned the country’s media a risk score of just 25% in terms of the media and democratic electoral processes, thus emphasizing that different political actors were represented fairly, as mandated by law. Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 World Press Freedom Index relegated Malta to 77th place, down 12 places from the previous report. However, opinion pieces in the Times of Malta and Malta Today, two of the island’s main newspapers, as well as the Institute of Maltese Journalists, were critical of the negative ranking. However, smaller parties or independent candidates do not receive equal treatment by the state-owned media. In the 2017 elections, the small parties were not able to participate in the main pre-election debates on the PBS; several formal complaints were filed by the smaller parties. The PBS management is appointed by government, which is said to negatively impact its independence. The fault lies with the two main parties, as they alone can change the BA’s constitutional status. However, complaints to the broadcasting watchdog have become negligible. There is no law that makes government office incompatible with media ownership; both parties own media outlets, giving them an advantage over smaller parties. The 2017 Media Monitor notes that Malta is the only EU country where political parties have such extensive media ownership. The BA and the Press Act require party-run media to allow for a right of reply to an aggrieved party or individual. Access to newspapers becomes increasingly restricted at election time; unrestricted access is obtainable at a cost.

Due to increased competition and the proliferation of privately owned radio and television stations and online news outlets all candidates can now access time in the media to present their views, albeit at a cost. However, the 2017 OSCE election assessment mission report stated that independent candidates and small parties enjoyed little visibility outside of social media.

Citations:
http://www.ba-malta.org/prdetails?i d=246
Social Media during the 2013 General Election in Malta. Department of Information Malta
www.consilium.europa.eu/media/…/1 st-panel-oswald-main-slide-speaker….
Sammut,C (2007) Malta and the Media Landscape
Monitoring Media Pluralism in Europe: Country Report Malta 2018
2019 World Press Freedom Index: Reporters without Borders
Times of Malta 28/04/19 Reporters without Arguments. Mark Anthony Falzon
Malta Today 22/04/19 Reporters without Brain cells Raphael Vassallo

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

10
 9

All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
 8
 7
 6


The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
 5
 4
 3


While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
 2
 1

The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
Voting and Registration Rights
9
Malta’s electoral laws are effective and impartial, and are controlled by a constitutionally-designated electoral commission. While there is no legal obligation to vote, turnout at general elections is high at over 90%. Maltese law states that any individual sentenced to a minimum prison term of one year cannot vote in elections. In the absence of postal or electronic voting mechanisms, residency qualifications are an obstacle to voting since voters are required to physically cast their ballots in Malta. However, since the 1980s, Maltese living abroad have been able to avail themselves of subsidized travel for voting purposes, since overseas Maltese cannot as yet vote at embassies, though this capability is being discussed. Amendments to the Electoral Law in 2018 lowered the voting age to 16, making Malta the second country where this has happened. Other changes have helped patients cast their votes during a hospital stay. Notwithstanding, legislation must be harmonized to ensure full voting rights for individuals with mental disabilities. Residents who are not citizens may not vote in national elections, yet in line with EU law, they may participate in local or European Parliament elections. There have been requests for better and more timely information for EU citizens exercising their right to vote. Third-country immigrants and refugees do not have the right to vote. Recommendations have been made to increase transparency in the system. These include a secrecy mechanism for assisted voters as well as laws enabling international observers to examine the election process, the setting of deadlines and publishing of all records of complaint. Malta has now shifted from a manual to an electronic ballot-counting system, which was used for first time in the European and local council elections of May 2019

Citations:
http://www.timesofmalta.com/article s/view/20130115/elections-news/ad-o n-voting-rights-for-maltese-abroad- party-financing.453281
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20 130220/local/Should-prisoners-in-Ma lta-be-allowed-election-vote-.45843 0
Should Migrants have the Right to Vote? Times of Malta 23/06/14
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20171015/local/counting-halls-electronic-voting-and-legal-changes-on-electoral.660402
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180305/local/16-year-olds-granted-the-vote-in-national-elections.672453
Times of Malta 19/11/18 Government considering ways for Maltese abroad to vote in embassies
Malta Today 02/12/18 Labour ministers shoot down voting right proposal for non-EU nationals
Malta Today 13/11/18 Voting counting hall transformed as electronic system in place for European elections
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_age#Malta
Malta Independent 26/03/19 PD requests extension of voter registration period

To what extent is private and public party financing and electoral campaign financing transparent, effectively monitored and in case of infringement of rules subject to proportionate and dissuasive sanction?

10
 9

The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring to that respect. Effective measures to prevent evasion are effectively in place and infringements subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
 8
 7
 6


The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring. Although infringements are subject to proportionate sanctions, some, although few, loopholes and options for circumvention still exist.
 5
 4
 3


The state provides that donations to political parties shall be published. Party financing is subject to some degree of independent monitoring but monitoring either proves regularly ineffective or proportionate sanctions in case of infringement do not follow.
 2
 1

The rules for party and campaign financing do not effectively enforce the obligation to make the donations public. Party and campaign financing is neither monitored independently nor, in case of infringements, subject to proportionate sanctions.
Party Financing
4
Malta passed its first party-financing law in July 2015, which requires that political parties should be subject to international standards of accounting and auditing; cannot accept donations from companies associated with the government; cannot accept donations from entities, foundations, trusts and nominees whose beneficiaries are unknown; donations in excess of €7,000 must be recorded online and reported to the Electoral Commission; and donations from individuals must be capped at €25,000. As a consequence of this legislation, political parties have been required since 2016 to publish details on the financing of their electoral campaigns. However, the effectiveness of this legislation has been challenged by the Nationalist Party (PN), which has pursued various schemes intended to bring down its considerable debt. The Electoral Commission lacks the power to ensure compliance since it is unable to control sources of income beyond donations. Other flaws of the new legislation include the absence of a requirement to use a designated bank account or to disclose donations to entities owned by political parties as well as an excessive disclosure threshold, a failure to cap spending at €2 million, and a lack of detailed and timely reporting. It has also been noted that there is insufficient harmonization of the regulations relating to the Financing of Political Parties Act (FPPA) and General Elections Act, raising concerns over which act would take legal precedence. The role of the Electoral Commission as the appropriate body to act as investigator and adjudicator with regard to the FPPA has also been undermined by a Constitutional Court ruling stating that this concentration of authority breaches Article 6 of the European Convention. As a consequence, the precise role of the party-financing watchdog currently remains uncertain, and the Act urgently needs to be revised.

Citations:
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150721/local/pns-conditional-yes-to-party-funding-bill.577469
http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/55315/party_financing_bill_passes_into_law_both_parties_vote_in_favour#.ViNkq34rKM8
Party Financing a lost opportunity Malta Today 23/07/2015
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160917/local/pn-refusing-to-disclose-cedoli-scheme-donor-details.625240
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160911/local/cedoli-make-3m-as-pn-prepares-for-an-election.624637
tvm.com.mt 09/12/15 Malta off GRECO blacklist thanks to legislation on party financing
Times of Malta 07/11/17 Four Electoral Commission Members opted not to apply party financing law fearing human rights breach.
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20170708/opinion/Sound-party-finances.652699
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20170312/editorial/time-to-clean-up-party-funding.642120
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180510/local/pn-appeals-party-funding-investigation-decision.678761
Malta Today -8/10/12 Constitutional Court finds for PN in party financing case
Times of Malta 14/10/18 State of limbo looming for party financing watchdog
The Malta Independent 05/06/19 PD Warns of dormant financing of Political Parties Act

Do citizens have the opportunity to take binding political decisions when they want to do so?

10
 9

Citizens have the effective opportunity to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums. The set of eligible issues is extensive, and includes national, regional, and local issues.
 8
 7
 6


Citizens have the effective opportunity to take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through either popular initiatives or referendums. The set of eligible issues covers at least two levels of government.
 5
 4
 3


Citizens have the effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure. The set of eligible issues is limited to one level of government.
 2
 1

Citizens have no effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure.
Popular Decision-Making
3
The constitution of Malta allows for three types of referendums: constitutional, consultative and abrogative. None of these types however fulfill the criteria for popular decision-making defined by the SGI. However, Malta has had several consultative referendums, the most recent being a 2015 referendum seeking to end spring hunting. In the latter case, the referendum was triggered by a citizens’ initiative. Some local councils have also resorted to referendums, but while this may influence central government decisions, they are not binding.

Citations:
http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/lifestyle/environment/38168/spring_hunting_referendum_is_revolutionary#.ViNoVn4rKM8
The Constitution of Malta
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20140330/local/-Spring-hunting-in-dustbin-of-history-.512723
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20140328/local/signatures-for-referendum-to-abolish-spring-hunting-presented-to.512579
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160710/letters/Perseverance-and-tenacity.618307
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160826/local/help-us-oppose-pas-firework-factory-plans-gharb-local-council.623151

Access to Information

#32

To what extent are the media independent from government?

10
 9

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
 8
 7
 6


The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
 5
 4
 3


The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/market access for private media.
 2
 1

Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
Media Freedom
6
Private media operates free from government interference. Mechanisms exist to ensure that state media operate independently from government interference; since 2014, we have witnessed further progress on this issue. While the prime minister appoints all the directors of the State Media Board, as well as all the members of its editorial board, complaints of bias against the state broadcaster have dwindled. In Malta, media independence more generally is influenced by who owns a given media outlet, as well as the source of its revenues. In many cases, media organizations depend on commercial and public expenditures for these revenues. Furthermore, journalists in all media often display a clear party preference close to that of the media organization’s owner, whether the outlet is owned by a party or not. This, rather than government interference, is the primary reason that Malta’s media suffers from a lack of public trust. In a 2016 European Commission report on media pluralism, 76% of respondents stated that the media provides a diversity of views and opinions, but only 28% thought that the media provided information free from political or commercial pressure. In the same survey, 44% believed that the media provided trustworthy information, with the lowest scores assigned to newspapers and social media. Only 39% viewed the national regulator as being free and independent. Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press report 2017 gave Malta a score of 23/100 (with zero indicating the maximum amount of freedom). The 2017 Media Monitor ranked Malta as a medium-risk country with regard to political-independence indicators and regulatory safeguards, with three indicators assigned a high level of risk: the political independence of the media, editorial autonomy, and independence of public sector media governance and funding. Malta’s ranking in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index fell to 77th place due to the government’s failure to launch a public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the failure to withdraw approximately 30 pending posthumous civil defamation cases against the Caruana Galizia family, and the incidence of local strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) laws, which can be used to muzzle the media. In the time since the ranking, the Caruana Galizia inquiry has been set up, although the government has argued that its first priority was to ensure that the judicial process against three persons accused of her murder would not be tainted by the inquiry.

Recent amendments to the press laws have abolished criminal libel, introduced the concept of mediation, and banned the filing of multiple libel lawsuits based on the same journalistic report. Other proposed reforms include the elimination of defamation of the president as a sanctionable offense, a cap on libel damages (including a clause stating that courts need to take into account the impact that financial damages may have on a media outlet) and a voluntary registration process for media outlets. The OSCE welcomed the changes, but offered additional recommendations, noting that a more balanced approach is needed with regard to the defense of truth.

Although state and party-related activities dominate the media, the reality of media diversity and a recent increase in competition ensure that the system is essentially pluralist, and that a range of opinions remain available. Online news outlets have added to this pluralism.

Citations:
Journalists’ institute calls for reform of libel laws. Times of Malta 18/07/2015
Cabinet mulls brave new defamation law. Malta Today 11/11/2015
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20161001/local/institute-of-maltese-journalists-calls-for-decriminalization-of-libel.626631
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160713/local/justice-minister.618702
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160714/local/repealing-blasphemy-law-a-victory-for-freedom-of-speech-says-humanist.618859
https://rsf.org/en/ranking
Standard Eurobarometre 84 Autumn 2015
Malta Today 29/11/17 OSCE analysis of Malta’s upcoming media law
Legal analysis of the draft law of the Republic of Malta to provide for the updating of the regulation of media and defamation matters and for matters consequential or ancilliary thereto, Commissioned by the office of the OSCE Representative on freedom of the media from Dr. Joan Barata November 2017
Draft law of the Republic of Malta to provide for the updating of the regulation of media and defamation matters and for matters consequential or ancilliary thereto 2017
Special Eurobarometer 452.Media Pluralism and Democracy November 2017
World press freedom index of reporters without borers 2018

To what extent are the media characterized by an ownership structure that ensures a pluralism of opinions?

10
 9

Diversified ownership structures characterize both the electronic and print media market, providing a well-balanced pluralism of opinions. Effective anti-monopoly policies and impartial, open public media guarantee a pluralism of opinions.
 8
 7
 6


Diversified ownership structures prevail in the electronic and print media market. Public media compensate for deficiencies or biases in private media reporting by representing a wider range of opinions.
 5
 4
 3


Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize either the electronic or the print media market. Important opinions are represented but there are no or only weak institutional guarantees against the predominance of certain opinions.
 2
 1

Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize both the electronic and the print media market. Few companies dominate the media, most programs are biased, and there is evidence that certain opinions are not published or are marginalized.
Media Pluralism
6
Maltese media outlets, including visual media, electronic media and print publications, are primarily owned by a mix of actors: political parties, the Catholic Church, private entrepreneurs and the General Workers’ Union (GWU), a major left-leaning trade union. Thus, Malta’s media landscape reflects a plurality of ownership. Pluralism of opinion within the media depends entirely on the willingness of owners to allow the publication or dissemination of opposing viewpoints or dissent from current orthodoxy. The state media has expanded the range of viewpoints presented, and has had few legal cases brought against it in recent years, a significant change. The state fulfills its obligations better now than in the past. However, competition for market share has forced privately owned and politically owned media alike to publish dissenting opinions more often. The 2017 report on media pluralism in Malta by the Center for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) at the European University Institute, assigned the country a medium score in terms of basic protection of journalists against violence. This score was primarily associated with the murder of a journalist (Daphne Caruana Galizia) in 2017. The report stated that, “The highest-scoring risk indicators are: political independence of media, in particular of public-service media; commercial and owner influence over editorial content; cross-media concentration of ownership; access to media for minorities and for people with disabilities; and media literacy. Editorial autonomy seems not to be well protected, either from political or commercial influences. However, media ownership is quite transparent.” Malta scored well in terms protecting the freedom of expression; yet here too the country’s ranking fell, again primarily due to Caruana Galizia’s murder and the mistaken claim that no action was being taken to solve the murder. The report pointed out that Malta is the only EU country where the two major political parties own television and radio stations as well as newspapers. According to the Media Pluralism Monitor 2016, media ownership is transparent but data on revenues are not available. Most of the risk-increasing factors relate to the lack of data on the media market, lack of protection for and self-regulation by journalists, and the lack of a media-literacy policy. In a 2016 European Commission report on media pluralism, 76% of respondents stated that the media provide a diversity of views and opinions, 48% thought the media was more free and independent than five years ago; Malta showed the most improved score over the past five years in both cases. Notwithstanding, only 28% thought that the media provided information free from political or commercial pressure.

Citations:
http://www.timesofmalta.com/article s/view/20130428/opinion/Making-PBS- a-fit-national-entity.467423
http: //www.timesofmalta.com/articles/vie w/20130423/local/new-pbs-chairman-t hanks-the-pm.466622
http://www.tim esofmalta.com/articles/view/2013042 5/local/Time-for-changing-of-the-gu ard-at-PBS.467040
Media Pluralism in Malta, A Test Implementation of the Media Pluralism Monitor 2015
Media Pluralism in Malta, A Test Implementation of the Media Pluralism Monitor 2016
Media Pluralism in Malta, A Test Implementation of the Media Pluralism Monitor 2017
Malta today 31/12/2019 One TV Chairman Jason Micallef opposes scrapping political party media

To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

10
 9

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
 8
 7
 6


Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
 5
 4
 3


Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
 2
 1

Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
Access to Government Information
4
The Freedom of Information Act was passed in 2008 and only came into force in September 2012. Since this time journalists have had better access to information from government bodies. However, exemptions compromise the bulk of the legislation. Under Article 5(4), no Maltese citizen is entitled to apply to view documents held by the Electoral Commission, the Employment Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Office of the Attorney General, the National Audit Office, the Security Service, the Ombudsman Office and the Broadcasting Authority, when the latter is exercising its constitutional function. Under Article 3, only Maltese and EU nationals who have been resident in Malta for a minimum of five years may access information. The prime minister also holds the power to overrule the Information and Data Protection commissioner, despite the latter’s declaration that a request for information should be approved. Moreover, there are a number of laws that still contain secrecy provisions to which the act does not apply. While this may be justified in some cases, it might undermine the essential workings of the act, as it could be in the political interest of the prime minister to suppress the publication of documents, which might embarrass or undermine his administration. The act does not meet the standards of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Access to Official Documents. The 2017 Media Pluralism Monitor assigned Malta a 56% risk rating in this area. The report stated that this rating was in part a result of the weakness of legislation protecting whistleblowers, since the law offers no protection if such individuals fail to try internal reporting procedures first, or if they report to the press or other media. Between 2015 and 2017, government ministries received 402 requests under the Freedom of Information Act from media houses and members of the public. A total of 54% of these requests were upheld in full or in part.

Citations:
Aquilina, K, Information Freedom at Last. Times of Malta, 22/08/12
Freedom of Information Act Comes Fully into Force. The Independent 02/09/12
In spite of fines ministry offers no reply to Times FOI request Times of Malta 9/5/2015
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160827/local/has-the-freedom-of-information-act-worked.623201
Government says no to most Times of Malta requests for information Times of Malta 11/06/16
Times of Malta 12/08/17 Freedom of information requests tripled in three years
Times of Malta 27/08/16 Has the Freedom of information Act worked?
Times of Malta 30/11/17 Over 400 Freedom of information requests in 3 years
Malta Independent 26/08/19 Freedom of information act: pulling off the cloak of secrecy
Malta Independent 17/10/19 Freedom of information: Transparency needed
The State’s Duty to Inform, Edited by the Parliamentary Ombudsman Malta 2015

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#29

To what extent does the state respect and protect civil rights and how effectively are citizens protected by courts against infringements of their rights?

10
 9

All state institutions respect and effectively protect civil rights. Citizens are effectively protected by courts against infringements of their rights. Infringements present an extreme exception.
 8
 7
 6


The state respects and protects rights, with few infringements. Courts provide protection.
 5
 4
 3


Despite formal protection, frequent infringements of civil rights occur and court protection often proves ineffective.
 2
 1

State institutions respect civil rights only formally, and civil rights are frequently violated. Court protection is not effective.
Civil Rights
7
The state generally respects human rights, and human rights are subject to judicial protection. Malta affords the highest possible level of protection to civil and political human rights, as enshrined in Chapter 4 of the constitution. These rights are legally enforceable before the courts, and the sphere of rights enjoyed by individuals has expanded greatly since independence, thanks to decisions by the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Delays in the administration of justice have often been the cause of complaints, but recent court reforms have improved matters. A recent landmark Constitutional Court ruling declared that two statements made by the accused when his lawyer was not present were inadmissible, and were thus expunged from the record; this reinforced the principle that a lawyer must be present at all times when an accused person is being questioned. A new section in the superior court of appeal has been created with the aim of increasing the system’s efficiency and effectiveness. The extension of rights to members of the LGBT community has improved civil-rights protections. For the third year running, the country has retained its place at the top of the European index that assesses rights granted to LGBTIQ persons in 49 countries. An increased focus on gender equality has improved matters considerably as has the transposition into domestic law of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention). There has been a similar development regarding disabled persons in Malta, and a national disabilities strategy is being finalized. A 2018 report by the Aditus Foundation, a human-rights organization, noted further reforms concerning the civil rights of immigrants and asylum-seekers, including the removal of automatic detention (though these gains were eroded somewhat with the increased number of asylum-seekers in 2019), a shift to open reception centers and a more efficient processing system, improved rights by applicants to access their own files, and better family reunification measures. Moreover, a relatively high number of asylum-seekers have been accorded humanitarian protection status. However, the rate of recognition for actual refugee status remains low. Better access to housing and support for migrants to integrate with the community needs to be made available. A recent report highlighted the right to marry, as migrants who do not have residency permits face a number of barriers when wishing to marry. In May 2019, the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights chastised Malta for the decision to charge three migrants, two of whom were minors, with terrorist charges stemming from an incident on a commercial ship carrying a hundred rescued people. Exploitation of refugees by commercial interests remains a challenge. A Human Rights and Equality Commissioner has been appointed, and a new integration policy launched in 2019 ratified the relevant conventions on statelessness. The violation of the rights of prisoners confined in overcrowded and substandard conditions has also been noted. With regard to gender issues, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights has noted the introduction of the morning-after pill, but has also called for the decriminalization of abortion in Malta. The latter issue remains very divisive. The U.N. Committee for the Rights of the Child has recommended that Malta’s marriage law be amended to forbid people under 18 from getting married. Freedom in the World 2019 allocated Malta a score of one out of seven, with one being the best score in terms of civil liberties. Shortcomings cited included the degree of government influence over state media, the vulnerability of and hostility toward irregular migrants, and the continued prevalence of domestic violence.

Citations:
The Malta human rights report 2015 The people for change foundation.
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160713/editorial/Spotlight-on-human-trafficking.618620
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160819/local/maltas-laws-on-detention-are-still-unclear-says-unhcr.622400
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160914/life-features/malta-and-lgbtiq-equality-one-year-on.624868
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160818/local/trangender-policy-for-prisons-launched.622376
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160803/local/fewer-complaints-filed-with-commission-for-people-with-a-disability.620908
http://inewsmalta.com/article.php?ID1=39241
The Guardian 07/12/16 Malta becomes first European Country to ban gay cure therapy
Amnesty International Annual Report Malta 2015/16
Times of Malta 03/01/16 New Migrant strategy is a step in right direction
Times of Malta 19/11/16 No More temporary humanitarian protection N for failed asylum-seekers
Times of Malta 14/10/17 No flushing toilets for 120 prisoners
Times of Malta 11/11/17 Commissioner Taken aback by non-debate on abortion
Freedom of the World 2017
Council of Europe, Commissioner for human rights, country Visit Malta 2017: Malta should step up efforts to enhance protection of women’s and migrant’s rights
Malta Today 25/09/18 New section within appeals court established
Malta Today 05/10/18 Suspects must be assisted by lawyer at all times during police questioning, court says in landmark ruling
AIDA Asylum information base: Country report Malta 2017 Aditus
Times of Malta 12/12/2018 In Malta some rights are more valued than others
Times of Malta 05/12/2018 Human Rights Day
Global Detention project: Immigration detention in Malta betraying European Values? 11/06/2019
Aquilina, K., (2018) Human Rights Law Faculty of Law, University of Malta
Times of Malta 02/07/2019 Too young to get married
Freedom in the world: Malta 2019
Malta Today 14/12/19 UNHCR welcomes Malta accession to convention on stateless persons

To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

10
 9

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
 8
 7
 6


All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
 5
 4
 3


State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
 2
 1

Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
Political Liberties
7
The constitution of Malta and its chapter on fundamental human rights provide for a broad range of political and civil liberties. The incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into the Maltese constitution as well as membership in the European Union has also enhanced political liberties in Malta. The Maltese judiciary serves as the ultimate guarantor of Maltese rights and liberties, and governments respect court decisions. Maltese citizens also have the right to take a case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and several individuals have done so with success. The Ombudsman also plays a part in the protection of civil liberties. A traditionally clientelistic and partisan approach to politics has in the past hindered the exercise of individual political liberties, although this seems to be less marked today, as the Maltese are strong users of social media, and frequently use these platforms to air their views on political issues. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index 2019, Malta’s ranking fell overall, with its poorest ranking assigned for the performance of government institutions. However, there was an improvement in the country’s score for transparency of government policymaking. In Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2019 index, Malta’s score in terms of political rights was two out of seven, with one being the best score. The report cited a number of problematic issues, including the difficulties faced by small parties in entering parliament, the shortcomings of the 2015 Financing of Political Parties Act, the shortcomings of the FOI act, the ineffectiveness of measures intended to investigate corruption, the lack of transparency in the allocation and terms of public contracts, and the influence still wielded by powerful economic interest groups in national politics. The 2018 Eurobarometer, in contrast, reported an increased trust in government in 2017 (63%) as compared to 2016 (55%), and 2012 (34%). While the share of people expression trust in the government in 2018 fell to 58%, this remains much higher than the EU average. Excessive delays in the deciding of court cases and the costs of such delays often deter people from seeking legal solutions, although the picture has improved sharply on this issue. The right to a lawyer during police interrogation has now been fully implemented. However, Malta has one of the EU’s weakest systems for allocating legal aid, and lawyers appointed under this system have at times been found to have failed to fulfill their duty. Legal aid lawyers are very poorly paid. The current threshold to be eligible for legal aid is also very low. Malta is one of 11 EU countries that do not provide third-country nationals with electoral rights.

Citations:
Migrant Integration Policy Index. http://www.mipex.eu/malta
Freedom in the World 2015 Malta
COM (2014) 419 Final COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION on Malta’s 2014 National Reform Program
Judiciary criticizes proposals for reform of commission for the administration of justice Times of Malta 1/10/13
Justice Reform Commission makes 450 proposals Times of Malta 2/12/13
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160411/local/european-commission-justice-scoreboard-results-welcomed.608529
Times of Malta 28/09/16 Lawyers to be present during interrogation
Legal and Reformers Network Malta: parties agree on legal aid for suspects facing police interrogation
Access to Legal Assistance in Malta, Aditus 2017
Times of Malta 27/10/17 Malta’s Tribal Politics
Times of Malta 11/11/17 Permanent secretary to be compensated because of political discrimination
Global competitiveness report 2017-2018 World Economic Forum
Malta Independent 31/07/16 55% of Maltese trust government in 2016 compared to 34% in 2012
Times of Malta 23/02/18 Legal Aid system must work
Freedom in the world: Malta 2018
Freedom in the world: Malta 2019
Global competitiveness report 2019 World Economic Forum
Eurobarometer 2019

How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

10
 9

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
 8
 7
 6


State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
 5
 4
 3


State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
 2
 1

The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
Non-discrimination
5
The Maltese constitution’s chapter on fundamental human rights forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender or politics. Other laws forbid discrimination on the basis of physical disability or handicap. In Malta, the civil courts and the Constitutional Court are staunch defenders of anti-discrimination legislation. Since 2013, the government has strengthened the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people through the establishment of civil unions and a gender identity act. Malta also has a number of independent commissions to protect the rights of vulnerable groups, such as children and disabled people. In the last budget, the government increased the fine for employers who discriminate against disabled people. The country has also worked to increase female representation at various levels, although women are still underrepresented in parliament, on state boards and in the workforce compared to most EU states. Malta’s rank remains unchanged at 15th place in the EU-28 in a 2019 index published by the European Institute for Gender Equality. In the index, the country scored well in terms of health and monetary resources, but very poorly in terms of women’s access to power. A bill on the issue of equality bill is presently making its way through parliament. This act will give legal protection to victims of discrimination, and harmonize equality and non-discrimination laws. It will include gender quotas with regard to parliamentary representation and in the public administration to ensure that at least 40% of positions are held by women. In the workplace, women remain disadvantaged when it comes to earnings and pensions. Discrimination on grounds of political affiliation remains a problem, a direct result of the country’s small size, but aggravated by the type of electoral system in place. Aggrieved citizens may take cases to the Constitutional Court, the Employment Commission or the Ombudsman Office, while public servants may also bring a case before the Public Service Commission. Nevertheless, allegations of discrimination on political grounds remain common, although at lower levels than previously. In addition, it has been alleged that many cases of discrimination remain unreported. In 2018, the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality highlighted the discrimination faced by sub-Saharan migrants Malta in accessing employment, in employment itself, in accessing housing and when contacting school authorities as parents.

Citations:
Carabott, S. Expats Petition against Malta Discrimination. Times of Malta 12/04/13
Ellul, T. REPORT ON MEASURES TO COMBAT DISCRIMINATION Directives 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC
COUNTRY REPORT 2011 MALTA
Unreported discrimination cases causes concerns Di Ve 24/05/13.
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160615/local/agreement-reached-on-electricity-tariffs-for-rented-properties.615486
http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/80052/muscat_to_participate_in_mentoring_programme_for_women_in_politics#.WesByVuCyM8
http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/80676/strong_representation_of_women_in_parliament_next_step_for_maltas_democracy#.WesCIluCyM8
Malta is almost half way to gender equality, European Institute for Gender equality 24/06/16
Times of Malta 04/11/17 Women in Malta earn half of what men get
Malta Independent 15/01/18 Discrimination affecting large number of ethnic minorities
European Institute (2019) Gender equality Index
Equity Act 2019 http://www.justiceservices.gov.mt/DownloadDocument.aspx?app=lp&itemid=29681&l=1

Rule of Law

#31

To what extent do government and administration act on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions to provide legal certainty?

10
 9

Government and administration act predictably, on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions. Legal regulations are consistent and transparent, ensuring legal certainty.
 8
 7
 6


Government and administration rarely make unpredictable decisions. Legal regulations are consistent, but leave a large scope of discretion to the government or administration.
 5
 4
 3


Government and administration sometimes make unpredictable decisions that go beyond given legal bases or do not conform to existing legal regulations. Some legal regulations are inconsistent and contradictory.
 2
 1

Government and administration often make unpredictable decisions that lack a legal basis or ignore existing legal regulations. Legal regulations are inconsistent, full of loopholes and contradict each other.
Legal Certainty
6
Since Malta joined the European Union, the predictability of the majority of decisions made by the executive has steadily improved, with discretionary actions becoming more constrained. Overall, legal certainty is robust, though there continue to be instances where the rule of law is misapplied by state institutions. However, governments do generally respect the principles of legal certainty, and the government administration generally follows legal obligations; the evidence for this comes from the number of court challenges in which government bodies have prevailed. The rule of law is what one might consider a work in progress. The judicial system has been strengthened and more legislation put into place. The Ombuds Office and the National Audit Office (NAO) continue to provide strong oversight over many aspects of public administration. The appointment of a commissioner for standards in public life has already began to bear fruit.

However, reports from public bodies such as the Ombudsman Office and the National Audit Office demonstrate that government institutions do sometimes make unpredictable decisions, notably in the use of direct orders by ministries in concessions of public land to private business operators and a lack of transparency in the allocation and terms of public contracts. In 2019, the courts ruled that restrictions imposed on the Ombudsman in the investigation of complaints from armed forces personnel were unlawful, thereby extending its jurisdiction. The work of these two offices together have afforded greater transparency in the allocation and terms of public contracts. Parliament is slow to legislate on articles of the law that have been declared unconstitutional and need to be revised. Several laws and practices enacted before EU membership are now in breach of the Maltese constitution or the European Convention on Human Rights, notably in the case of property acquired by the government decades before membership. The government has in some cases made subsidiary law that violates primary law. There is no overarching sentencing policy that ensures legal certainty; instead, sentences that ignore clear provisions in the constitution and which are instead based on other laws still take place. However, the higher courts have become stronger in enforcing constitutional provisions. Since the Maltese legal system does not include the doctrine of judicial precedent, this may also mitigate against legal certainty. The length of court cases also undermines the process. The recent practice of placing members of parliament on regulatory boards is also unconstitutional, and has been condemned by the commissioner for standards in public life.
Malta has become the first jurisdiction to provide legal certainty to the cryptocurrency field.

Citations:
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150224/local/210000-commission-paid-in-cafe-premier-buyback-audit-office-slams.557475
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150104/local/Dalli-case-prompts-Ombudsman-action.550497
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150813/local/updated-some-diabetes-patients-denied-treatment-ombudsman.580496
Minister reacts as auditor criticizes re ranking of bidding firms Times of Malta 5/03/14
Updated; Government asks AG to amend unconstitutional industrial tribunal law Independent 12/02/16
http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/76165/maltese_perceive_judicial_independence_to_be_fairly_good#.WesFh1uCyM8
The Independent 20/12/17 Kevin Aquilina, The Rule of Law a La Maltaise
Malta Today 9/10/17 Former Planning and lands minister is now lawyer for both planning and lands authority
Times of Malta 7/10/17 Ombudsman queries positions of trust
Times of Malta 11/11/17 Ministry spends almost 30,000 euros on Liquor for EU Presidency
Interview with Prof Kevin Aquilina Dean of Law 12/17
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20181003/local/aquarium-only-cost-developer-one-fifth-of-its-value-nao-finds.690656
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180911/local/maltas-whistleblower-laws-rank-second-in-the-eu-ngo.688903
bitcoinist.com Malta becomes first world jurisdiction with legal certainty in cryptocurrency field
Grima, J., (2017) Legal Certainty and the Constitution: is Malta ready for the doctrine of Judicial Precedent?

To what extent do independent courts control whether government and administration act in conformity with the law?

10
 9

Independent courts effectively review executive action and ensure that the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 8
 7
 6


Independent courts usually manage to control whether the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 5
 4
 3


Courts are independent, but often fail to ensure legal compliance.
 2
 1

Courts are biased for or against the incumbent government and lack effective control.
Judicial Review
7
Judicial review is exercised through Article 469A of the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure and consists of a constitutional right to petition the courts to inquire into the validity of any administrative act or declare such act null, invalid or without effect. Recourse to judicial review is through the regular courts (i.e., the court of civil jurisdiction) assigned two or three judges or to the Administrative Review Tribunal and must be based on the following: that the act emanates from a public authority that is not authorized to perform it; or that a public authority has failed to observe the principles of natural justice or mandatory procedural requirements in performing the administrative act or in its prior deliberations thereon; or that the administrative act constitutes an abuse of the public authority’s power in that it is done for improper purposes or on the basis of irrelevant considerations; or as a catch-all clause, when the administrative act is otherwise contrary to law. Malta has a strong tradition of judicial review, and the courts have traditionally served as a restraint on the government and its administration. A recent court ruling found that the justice minister’s orders to clear items memorializing a slain journalist away from a war memorial was in breach of the freedom of expression. Individuals who feel that their human rights have been breached also have recourse to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Fully 90% of the human-rights cases that have been taken up by the ECHR Court have produced rulings that Malta has violated the complainant’s human rights; however, a number of these have dealt with property leases and old tenancy laws.

The role of the Office of the Attorney General, which has been controversial since the position’s inception in the 1964 constitution, underwent a reform in 2019. Previously, the attorney general was both the state’s chief prosecutor and an adviser to the government. Following the reforms, the attorney general will retain responsibility for prosecutions and criminal matters, but a new state advocate will be responsible for all government advisory and legal representation functions in the field of constitutional civil and administrative law. The opposition did not vote in favor of this act in parliament, objecting to a number of articles including the process of selecting the state advocate. A new state advocate has been appointed under the new legislation after being unanimously recommended by the appointments commission following a public call. The process by which court experts are chosen should also be revised to be more transparent.

Recent judiciary reforms have included the establishment of a commercial section, the reform of the Family Court, and the creation of a new section in the Appeals Court to help speed up case processing.

The 2019 Justice Scoreboard noted that while more cases were being dealt with and the time needed to resolve cases had fallen, the percentage of resolved cases and pending cases remained stable. The report emphasized the lack of internet-based tools for legal-rights education, information on eligibility for legal aid, and information for children. The number of female judges in the court of first instance have increased substantially, but the numbers still remain low for the court of second instance. In a survey, 56% of the public and 62% of firms rated the independence of the courts and the judiciary as good or very good, an improvement relative to 2018. Reasons cited for the lack of independence included pressure from the government, politicians and economic groups. Nonetheless, this is more of a perception than a confirmed statistic. In 2017, no judges were transferred except by decision of the Judiciary Council, and there were no dismissals. The number of serving judges has increased over the last five years. Malta has the EU’s fourth-highest rate of judges participating in training activities focused on EU law or the law of another member state. However Malta does not as yet provide training for judges in the areas of IT, judgecraft, ethics, court management or communication with the press. An internal debate is taking place on this latter issue. Measures to deal with court backlogs remain weak. The World Economic Forum’s global score board for 2019 states that “the judiciary is fairly independent and efficient and provides strong protection of property rights.” On the issue of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, Malta here achieved a score of 50.4%. The appointment of more judges, improved planning processes and increased use of ICT have had a visible effect on the judicial process. Increased scrutiny of the bench by the Commission for the Administration of Justice should help to increase public confidence in the courts. The number of judges as a percentage of the population remains low, indicating difficulty in finding suitable candidates to take up the post. Online information on published judgments is available, and enough information is now provided to monitor the stages of a proceeding. Delays and deferments may still lengthen the process, but have diminished in recent years. In 2018, parliament passed a bill to establish a first hall of the civil court in Gozo.

Citations:
http://ec.europa.eu/justice/effecti ve-justice/files/justice_scoreboard _communication_en.pdf
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20130 506/local/european-commission-says- malta-judicial-reform-must-be-made- a-priority.468460
Malta with the worst record in European Union justice score board Independent 23.03.2015
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160411/local/european-commission-justice-scoreboard-results-welcomed.608529
The 2016 EU Justice Score board
Malthttp://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/76165/maltese_perceive_judicial_independence_to_be_fairly_good#.WesFh1uCyM8a’s Justice System Times of Malta 18/04/16
The 2019 EU Justice Score board
Times of Malta 19/07/18 Judiciary gets hefty pay rise spread over coming three years
Malta Independent 20/01/19 Government will have no say in judicial appointments in upcoming reform – Owen Bonnici
The Malta Independent 10/03/2019 Function of the Judiciary is only to Rubber stamp abuse by the powerful
The Shift 31/01/20 Justice minister’s orders to clear protest memorial a breach of freedom of expression
Times of Malta 06/12/19 Malta’s first state advocate name
2019 Index of Economic Freedom
Recent developments in the Judicial field
https://rm.coe.int/recent-developments-in-the-judicial-field-in-malta-january-2017-to-jun/16808cc3b5
Times of Malta 06/12/19 Malta’s first state advocate named
Aquilina Kevin The State Advocate Bill No 83 of 2019 OLJ Online Law Journal http://lawjournal.ghsl.org/viewer/263/download.pdf

To what extent does the process of appointing (supreme or constitutional court) justices guarantee the independence of the judiciary?

10
 9

Justices are appointed in a cooperative appointment process with special majority requirements.
 8
 7
 6


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies with special majority requirements or in a cooperative selection process without special majority requirements.
 5
 4
 3


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies without special majority requirements.
 2
 1

All judges are appointed exclusively by a single body irrespective of other institutions.
Appointment of Justices
4
Superior Court judges and magistrates are appointed by the president, acting in accordance with the advice of the prime minister. The independence of the judiciary is safeguarded through a number of constitutional provisions, including the security of tenure of judges and magistrates and the inviolability of their salaries. The constitution also states that an appointee must be a law graduate from the University of Malta with no less than 12 years of experience as a practicing lawyer. Magistrates need to be similarly qualified, but are required to have only seven years of experience. Today, all candidates who apply for the post are vetted by the Commission for the Administration of Justice before they can be appointed. However, the lack either of formal calls to fill judicial positions or of a ranking system to assess applicants impedes the process, and the final decision continues to lie with the executive. Numerous bodies have called for further reform. In 2019, the justice minister stated that the government was planning further changes to the process, which would ultimately ensure that the executive was no longer involved in the appointment of judges and magistrates. Instead, a reformed Judicial Appointments Committee would be empowered to act independently in the selection process. However, a number of new judges and magistrates were appointed under the current system in 2019. These appointments have been challenged in court by Repubblika, a civil society organization. The first Hall of the Civil Court has referred the case to the European Court of Justice, which has been asked to rule on whether the powers accorded to the prime minister in the appointment process are in conformity with European laws. The justice minister appointed in 2020 has stated that the judicial-appointment reforms are imminent.
On another issue, a recent law on the suspension of judges has been criticized by the dean of the law faculty at the University of Malta, on the basis that suspended judges have no right to challenge the suspension, and that the removal or dismissal of a judge should not be done by a body that is part of the legislature.

Citations:
European Council calls on Malta to improve transparency of Judicial Appointments. Independent 10/02/14
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150517/local/government-ignored-bonello-commission-recommendations-on-appointments.568405
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150819/local/minister-warns-against-reforming-judicial-appointments-system-for-the.581166
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150518/local/bonnici-we-will-reform-way-judiciary-appointed.568596
Judicial appointments and the executive: Government cannot continue to delay reform Independent 2/10/2015
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160225/local/judicial-commission-to-vet-nominees-to-bench.603674
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160718/local/historic-constitutional-amendments-on-judicial-appointments-discipline.619296
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160720/local/judiciary-welcomes-judicial-reform-legislation.619498
Interview with Professor Kevin Aquilina
Malta Independent 20/01/19 Government will have no say in judicial appointments in upcoming reform – Owen Bonnici
https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/93687/magistrate_yana_micallef_stafrace_not_recommended_for_promotion_to_judge_by_the_judicial_appointments_committee#.XZxKpWAzbIU
Times of Malta 25/11/2019 Foundation of Justice system in serious doubt says maltese judge in urgent reference to European Court
Times of Malta 11/02/20 Judiciary reform on the way

To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

10
 9

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 8
 7
 6


Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
 5
 4
 3


Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 2
 1

Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Corruption Prevention
5
The government generally implements anti-corruption laws effectively. Malta’s Criminal Code criminalizes active and passive bribery, extortion, embezzlement, trading in influence, abuse of office, and receiving and offering gifts. The penalty for bribery, whether in the private or public sector, can be up to eight years’ imprisonment. Money laundering is criminalized under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which stipulates procedures for the investigation and prosecution of money laundering, and establishes the Prevention of Money Laundering and Funding of Terrorism Regulations. Malta has faced various calls for reform in this sector, and the government continues to heed these calls through changes in legislation and strategic plans.

A number of institutions and processes work to prevent corruption. These include the Permanent Commission Against Corruption, the National Audit Office, the Ombuds Office and the Public Service Commission. The judiciary also plays an important part in ensuring accountability. The 2018 Malta Corruption Report (Business Anti-Corruption portal) states: “The Maltese judiciary carries a low corruption risk for companies. The courts are perceived as independent and the public generally believes that the courts are free from corruption. Businesses report that bribes in return for favorable court decisions are generally rare. Businesses also report confidence in the ability of the police to protect companies from crime and uphold the rule of law.” In 2019 the government appointed a Police Governing Board to assist in reform of the corps, and to extend oversight more generally.

There is a separate Code of Ethics that applies to ministers, members of parliament and public servants, and a recently appointed Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, whose officeholder is selected by a two-thirds majority vote in parliament, has already produced results. Ministers and members of parliament are also expected to make an annual asset declaration. The Public Accounts Committee of the unicameral House of Representatives can also investigate public-expenditure decisions to ensure that money spent or contracts awarded are transparent and conducted according to law and general financial regulations. However, the functioning of this committee requires review in order to ensure it is satisfying its remit. Internal audit systems can also be found in every department and ministry, but it is difficult to assess their effectiveness.

The government has introduced a number of reform. In 2013, it reduced elected political figures’ ability to evade corruption charges by removing statutes of limitation on such cases, and introduced a more effective Whistleblower Act, although this needs further reforms; in 2016, it passed a law on standards in public life; and in 2018, the government and the opposition agreed on the appointment of the person who will oversee the workings of this law.

Both the National Audit Office and the Ombuds Office are independent, but neither enjoys sufficient legal powers to allow them to follow up their investigations at the judicial level. Whether they should or not is a debatable issue. In 2018, the NAO launched a five-year plan to improve governance across the public service and reduce levels of non-compliance. In 2018, the ombudsman called for greater government transparency and accountability. The latter’s 2017 recommendation that legislation to regulate lobbying be passed has not yet been addressed, though the minister for environment has committed his ministry to setting up a register where all meetings with lobbyists would be registered. The Permanent Commission Against Corruption, established in 1988, has proved ineffective despite having investigated some 300 cases of alleged corruption; none of these cases have been prosecuted. The Public Service Commission, which is tasked with ensuring fairness in recruitment and promotions in the public service, remains underresourced. However, these institutions along with the recent FOI act allow for greater exposure of corruption.

Conflicts of interest remain common across both parties. The 2018 GAN report states that the public-services sector carries a low corruption risk for businesses operating in Malta, while Malta’s land administration suffers from moderate risks of corruption. It additionally says that corruption risks at Malta’s border are moderate, but that Malta’s public-procurement sector carries a high corruption risk for business. In 2020, the prime minster appointed a committee to review the Vitals hospital deal, which involved the leasing of three government hospitals by an international consortium, in order to ensure it fulfilled public-procurement regulations. Malta’s Planning Authority (MEPA) has been under scrutiny for decades due to allegations of corruption and other irregularities in its decision-making process. This situation is exacerbated by the prevalence of the face-to-face relationships common in small countries, and the fact that most of Malta’s parliamentarians aside from members of the government serve on a part-time basis, and thus maintain extensive private interests. Many also sit on government boards, a practice which the new commissioner for public standards has deemed to contravene the spirit of the constitution. According to a 2018 report by the European Greens, Malta loses 8.65% of its GDP to corruption. In comparison, the lowest figure in this respect is 0.76% in the Netherlands, while the highest is 15.6%, in Romania. Malta’s score in the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index was 54% (with 100% being the best possible score), reflecting such issues as politically exposed persons’ (PEPs) involvement in the Panama papers, the collapse of a Malta-based bank and recent findings linked to the murder of a Maltese journalist. The 2019 GRECO report notes that opinion polls show perceptions of a high level of corruption, and that to date, there has been no visible disciplinary or criminal-justice response to a number of allegations, even though some have been confirmed by subsequent audits by the National Audit Office. The senior officials who have been accused of criminal or ethical misbehavior are still in their positions. Malta clearly lacks an overall strategy and coherent risk-based approach when it comes to integrity standards for government officials. The GRECO report also recommended that measures resolving the legal situation of persons of trust be implemented, that the number of such discretionarily appointed officials be limited to an absolute minimum, that robust and systematic awareness-raising measures be introduced, that the outcomes of public consultations be published, that new procedures for lobbying be introduced, and that the FOI Act be improved.

Citations:
Audit office finds lack of adherence to procurement regulations by the office of the prime minister Times of Malta 14/12 2015
No independent testing of concrete at child development center in Gozo Times of Malta 14/12/2015
Audit office calls for better verification of applications for social assistance Times of Malta 14/12/2015
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160503/local/minister-to-keep-pressure-on-mfsa-independent-regulator.610814
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160928/local/government-statement-pm-has-no-clue-if-chief-of-staff-will-benefit.626373
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160510/local/zammit-dimech-cachia-caruana-deny-panama-papers-links.611633
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20151129/local/minister-tells-his-business-partners-to-obey-the-law.593836
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160407/local/konrad-mizzi-to-address-labor-conference-as-pressure-over-panama.608123
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20161008/local/does-keith-schembris-opm-contract-contain-conflict-of-interest-rules.627308
Study shows political corruption at the PA Times of Malta 29/10/17
The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018
Will the chickens come home to roost in 2018 Times of Malta 08/01/18
Ombudsman Report 2018
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20181008/local/audit-office-adopts-new-strategy-to-improve-governance.691098
GAN Business anti-corruption Portal 2018 Malta Corruption Report
The Cost of Corruption across the EU. The Greens/EFA Group 2018
https://tradingeconomics.com/malta/corruption-index
https://www.mfsa.mt/firms/anti-money-laundering/about-aml/ includes risk assessments
GRECO Report on Malta 2019 https://rm.coe.int/grecoeval5rep-2018-6-fifth-evaluation-round-preventing-corruption-and-/168093bda3
https://www.islesoftheleft.org/digging-deeper-into-the-root-cause-of-clientelism-in-malta/
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