aditus foundation invites the public to participate in an informal discussion on the importance of how suspects are presented in Court and in the media and the impact that this may have on the presumption of innocence.
This activity closes The Importance of Appearances: How Suspects and Accused Persons are presented in the Courtroom, in Public and in the Media project implemented by the aditus foundation, Hungarian Helsinki Committee and their partners. For further information on the project, visit our project page: Importance of Appearances.
Justice Silvio Meli – retired judge with 29 years of experience in the Maltese courts Dr. Arthur Azzopardi – practicing criminal lawyer in the Courts of Malta Dr. Kevin Sammut Henwood – forensic psychologist & lecturer at UoM Yannick Pace – Chairperson of the Institute for Maltese Journalists & journalist Monique Agius – Journalist with Newsbook
The panelists will discuss the importance of how suspects are presented in court and in the media and the impact that these may have on the presumption of innocence.
When: Wednesday 26 June 2019 @ 16:00 – 17:30 Where: Valletta Campus, University of Malta Valletta
Participation is open to the public and free of charge. Refreshments will be served.
Katerina*, a Macedonian national and single mother of two young children, entered Malta legally and applied for a work permit in 2016. She was legally allowed to stay in Malta until a decision on her application and subsequent appeal was taken. Throughout that year, her two minor children aged four and six were attending school in Malta and finished their scholastic year in June 2017.
The whole process ended with a final rejection one year later in the beginning of July 2017, after which she voluntarily bought three plane tickets to return to her country mid-July. She overstayed in Malta for merely 21 days, in order allow her children to finish their scholastic year and to get things packed.
On the day of her flight, she was stopped by Immigration Police as she and her children were boarding the plane at Malta International Airport. An Immigration Police Officer issued a Return Decision accompanied by a Removal Order, together with a Schengen re-entry ban** of five years. She was then asked the by same Officer to sign a paper waiving her right to appeal as she was told that if she didn’t sign it then her return might be delayed.
At at that point, Katerina was being held by Immigration Police, pre-flight with her two minor children and was afraid of being held for longer periods of time at the airport. She was in an extremely vulnerable position. She signed the document and returned to Macedonia.
As a result of this, our client was banned from entering the European Union for 5 years, irrespective of the reason for travel. She was offered a web design job in Berlin which she had to decline due her ban and she could not travel even for tourist purposes with her children in Europe.
We filed an appeal with the Immigration Appeals Board (IAB) on the basis of the fact that our client was returning voluntarily, that there was no individual assessment that took into account that she only overstayed for a short period, and that she did not pose a public security risk. In our appeal we requested the IAB to withdraw the ban on re-entry. Our client received a negative decision from the IAB 15 months later.
We corresponded with Immigration Police for over 12 months, requesting a lifting of the ban. The ban was finally lifted by Immigration Police after two years.
There are circumstances you find yourself in that absolutely strip you of all human dignity. It is a painful thing.
When people look at refugees…sometimes they’ve been through so much, just let them be. They don’t want to trouble you. They just want to fit in.
I know the feeling because that’s what I have always wanted, just a place I can say, “Look, I’m home.”
Our Island II: Personal Accounts of Refugees in Malta gives space to 12 refugee and migrant stories to speak for themselves. It presents stories reflecting differences in the time spent in Malta, cultural and national background, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, age, education and profession and family composition, here and away.
Our Island II also attempts to span a wide range of emotions and experiences: the anxiety caused by being locked up, surprise at a Maltese woman’s flirtatiousness, peer pressure within one’s own ethnic community, helplessness at being perpetually undocumented, pure joy at being united with family members, stress due to the constant need to ‘integrate’.
So when we said we were going to get married, some people were thinking, “An African marriage? How could it be nice?” But as soon as they arrived at our wedding, they were surprised at how people were, and at how people dressed…
People wore traditional clothes, and just like my boss, they were all dancing! When African music is put on, you not only want to listen, you want to move!
That’s why it was so much fun.
12 stories: Nicky, Adil, Farah, Michael, Mary, Sekou, Agnes, Omar, Emad, Dursa, Hana, Ousman. Well, 11 stories and Emad’s poem. As you read through the stories, you will be invited into 12 very different worlds. You will get to know our contributors and be given a glimpse of their lives in Malta. They are indeed very different worlds, yet united by possibly two significant elements: the relationship between Malta and all narrators is based on otherness; and their protagonists are, quite honestly, regular people.
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.
For more information contact our project contact point, Carla ([email protected]). You can also Subscribe to our News and Updates to be kept updated on this and all other projects and initiatives.