The project will focus on supporting newly-arrived asylum-seekers. The rationale for this stems from an understanding that providing this group with sufficient information and guidance as soon as possible not only seeks to empower individuals and support their self-reliance, but it also reduces the administrative workload of government entities in dealing with subsequent queries and misinformed applicants.
aditus, together with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and partners (Fair Trials Europe, Human Rights House Zagreb, Mérték, Rights International Spain and the Vienna University), have been working together to increase knowledge and sensitivity to the presumption of innocence among professionals and the public. The Importance of Appearances: How Suspects and Accused Persons are presented in the Courtroom, in Public and in the Media project page can be accessed on this link.
Over the past year the aditus team, coordinated by our Assistant Director Carla Camilleri, has been carrying out a media review in order to collect and analyse data on the media representation of suspects and accused persons at all stages of the arrest and subsequent legal proceedings in Malta. This process included a sampling phase spanning a number of months of all news reporting relating to arrests of suspects or criminal court proceedings in printed newspapers, online portals and TV broadcasts in both the Maltese and English language press. The ultimate purpose of the research was to identify good and bad practice regarding the presumption of innocence in various sectors of the media. Stories were selected and coded by all project partners in their respective countries in accordance with the guidelines and procedures developed by the Vienna University team.
The results of the Maltese media review were collated into a National Media Report, which can be read in fullhere. The Report gives an overview of the laws, legal guidelines and legal framework relating to the media and criminal justice. It also gives a contextual outline of the media landscape in Malta, focusing on printed media and their websites, online news portals and also television broadcasts.
In the course of the research, the main legal provisions regulating the portrayal of suspects in the media that were identified are the following:
Requirements as to Standards and Practice applicable to News Bulletins and Current Affairs: persons accused of criminal matters should not be projected as if they are already found guilty and the principle of presumption of innocence must be fully respected. Trial by the media before any court judgement is delivered must be avoided at all times and care should be taken to avoid broadcasting repetitive footage that might prejudice the accused’s right to a fair trial.
Juvenile Court Act: newspaper reports, or sound or television broadcasts are prohibited from revealing the name, address or school, or include any particulars that may lead to the identification, of any child or young person under the age of 16 in criminal proceedings. The publication of any picture in any newspaper or on television as being or including a picture of any child or young person in any criminal proceedings, before the Juvenile Court and also the Criminal Court, is also prohibited.
Code of Journalistic Ethics: all reports of crimes and court proceedings should be strictly factual and a clear distinction should be made and explained between the facts and the expression of opinion. The naming of minors in court reporting is prohibited.
The findings of the media review of the reports and broadcasts from the selected television programmes, newspapers and online websites resulted a number of trends that may negatively influence the perception of suspects or accused persons as guilty. In this regard, a worrying trend was noted in relation to the use of images and film of the suspect on entering the Court building. Several incidences were recorded in which suspects were led by the Police through a pedestrian area and into the Court buildings through the front doors, as opposed to the back entrance. In this way reporters and journalists would publish or broadcast photographs or footage of suspects being led into Court handcuffed and escorted by a number of police officers. The negative portrayal of suspects or accused persons could potentially influence a person’s perception of their guilt and any future trial.
The research also highlighted that reporters and journalists from all media types consistently made explicit reference to the ethnicity and nationality of the alleged perpetrators. Frequently, the headlines would use nationality as the descriptor, for example “A Serb”, “Two Syrians” or “Russian with Maltese citizenship“, whilst no further descriptors are used for Maltese suspects, for example “double murder suspect still to be questioned”.
The use of visual representation which shows police officers, handcuffs and otherwise threatening representation of the defendants is also very common to newspapers, online portals and television broadcasters. However, it was also noted that only a few examples in which explicit reference to previous convictions were mentioned, whilst no explicit reference to guilt of the defendant were found in the sampled reports.
In the coming months an in-depth report on the legal framework regulating the use of restraining measures on suspects and accused persons, which also includes practical experiences of stakeholders in the field, will be published.
aditus foundation is one of the 6 civil society organisations which formed the first pro-choice coalition in Malta launched on the 8th March 2019. The coalition was set-up to lobby for the decriminalisation of abortion and to raise awareness in the community to combat the stigma that surrounds abortion.
Press Release – 8th March 2019
Voice for Choice is the first Maltese pro-choice coalition made up of civil society organisations and individuals who together want to campaign for reproductive rights and justice in Malta. We are grassroot organisations that represent various sectors of our society, as well as individuals that are passionate about reproductive health and rights.
Abortion continues to remain criminalised in Malta in all circumstances. We know that the reality is that women in Malta are still seeking and having abortions. However, this comes at both a financial and a social cost, as well as at the cost of their physical and mental health, as these women continue to live in fear, stigma and shame in our society.
In the last decades Malta has made great strides to be a more inclusive society. It is therefore time that the laws related to abortion follow suit so as to reflect the reality of people’s lives. We are here to ensure that all pregnant persons, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, beliefs or age are supported, respected and protected whatever their choices.
Voice for Choice today launches its campaign to:
strive for a society based on equal respect and justice free from discrimination for all genders and minority groups;
ensure that barriers in accessing sexual and reproductive health and rights are removed;
promote equality in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights;
remove shame and stigma related to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
We intend to achieve these goals through campaigning for the decriminalisation of abortion and advocating for laws that ensure that the health of pregnant people is protected and in line with international human rights standards through proper abortion care.
We will further strive to educate and debunk the myths surrounding abortion by providing factual information about sexual and reproductive health and rights.
To this aim, we will be organising activities to raise awareness in the community and combat the stigma and shame surrounding abortion, and providing up to date information to support evidence-based policy. Starting tomorrow, we will roll out our first social media campaign entitled “30 abortion myths: Get the facts straight’’.
Voice for choice will also be organising an annual event to commemorate ‘International Safe Abortion Day’ on the 28 September of each year.
49 refugees and migrants remain stranded in the Mediterranean. To date, no member state has stepped up and assumed shared responsibility for refugees and migrants saved at sea. The lack of solidarity among Member States is not only disappointing, but also demonstrates a disturbing disdain for their legal, ethical and moral responsibilities towards each other, and more importantly, towards the most vulnerable.
We would like to take this opportunity to recognize and commend the work and commitment of Malta’s Armed Forces who have been engaged in a number of rescue operations in the Mediterranean over the Christmas period. Far from international headlines, the Government of Malta has opened its port and provided haven to those in desperate need of safety and security.
The situation in Libya, the violence and ongoing human rights violations are well documented. Libya is not, and must not be a port of return. We call upon the Member States to support the work of the humanitarian search and rescue vessels, to share responsibility for all asylum seekers entering the EU, regardless of port of entry, and to enable access to safety and protection throughout the EU.
As Malta and the rest of Europe
celebrate Christmas, 32 men, women and children, have been stranded out at sea for
days waiting for a country to relent and take them in.
The tragic truth is that not a
single member state has stepped up and offered refuge. This is beyond
regrettable, it is a travesty of humanity.
We, the undersigned NGOs, urge the
government to once more lead by example and allow the people stranded on board
the rescue vessel, Sea Watch 3, to disembark in Malta. Malta should do this
whether or not it is legally responsible for disembarkation in terms of
Malta, like all other European
states, has a legal obligation to offer refuge to people fleeing persecution.
The standard argument these days
is that migrants rescued at sea should be returned to Libya, even if we know
that they will be imprisoned in horrible conditions, tortured, raped, or sold
as slaves. This is a flagrant violation of our freely assumed commitment to
ensure that no one is returned to a country where their safety is not
guaranteed and where they are at risk of torture or other violations of their
Arguing that we are somehow absolved of responsibility for their fate, because Malta is not intervening directly, is nothing short of facile, as responsibility is not only legal, it is also moral and ethical. It is nothing short of cynical to use laws enacted to preserve life and protect human dignity to justify a refusal to provide a safe haven to people fleeing persecution. In so doing, we violate the spirit of the law, under the pretence of upholding its letter.
It is for this reason that we call
on Malta not to look the other way, and to open its doors to those who need it
This press release is being issued by:
aditus foundation, African Media Association, Allied Rainbow Communities, Christian Life Community (CLC) Malta, Cross Culture International Foundation (CCIF), Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning – Faculty of Education University of Malta, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta, Kummissjoni Ġustizzja u Paċi, Malta Emigrants Commission, Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement, People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), Solidarity with Migrant Group, SOS Malta, Spark 15, The Critical Institute, Women’s Rights Foundation