National Media Report on the representation in the media of suspects and accused persons

Project Partners: Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Lead Partner), aditus foundation, Fair Trials Europe, Human Rights House Zagreb, Mérték, Rights International Spain, Vienna University. Supported by: This project is funded by the European Union’s Justice Programme (2014 – 2020)

According to EU Directive (EU) 2016/343 on the strengthening of certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present at the trial in criminal proceeding proceedings, Member States must ensure that suspects and accused persons are not presented as being guilty, in court or in public through the use of measures of physical restraint such as handcuffs, glass boxes, cages and leg irons.

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 full here. 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.

In one extreme example, a suspect was charged in Court the day after he was arrested, wearing a white forensic suit with his hands handcuffed behind his back. The suspect was made to walk in a busy pedestrian area, escorted by 3 police officers and enter the Court through the front doors as opposed to through the back entrance

Suspect being escorted to Court through a pedestrian street handcuffed and in white forensic suit

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 (carlacamilleri@aditus.org.mt). You can also Subscribe to our News and Updates to be kept updated on this and all other projects and initiatives.

Measures of Restraints


YOUTH, NOT STATUS: Erasmus+ project

TO DISCOVER DIFFERENT WAYS OF ACTING AND BEING INVOLVED IN THE

PROMOTION OF A MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY

JULY 2017– MAY 2018

 

Call for applications

Funded by Erasmus +, Youth, Not Status is the new project of aditus foundation.

Youth Not Status aims to bring together young Europeans and young refugee/migrants to include them in conversations about human rights. Youth, Not Status is comprised of a series of workshops focusing on the social inclusion of refugee and migrant youth in Malta.

Our idea is to stimulate and facilitate communication between young people of different backgrounds, and to encourage them to engage with decision-makers so as to arrive at practical solutions and ideas. The programme is a unique opportunity to acquire practical tools to support youth in developing common perspectives for sustainable strategies.

They will be guided on how to formulate political demands, comment and provide input on how Malta’s youth policy can be used as a tool to promote and encourage integration. Throughout the project, we will be focusing on human rights, advocacy skills, intercultural learning and active participation. The project will include:

  • social events to act as ice-breakers and relationship-building;
  • a Youth Camp weekend; and
  • a series of workshops, leading to a policy encounter with the Minister for Education and Employment. Some workshops will be held before the Youth Camp weekend, others will follow.

Applications will go live on June 1st 2017.

Further details can be seen on the project page:

http://aditus.org.mt/our-work/projects/youth-not-status/

Complete the online application form:

http://aditus.org.mt/our-work/projects/youth-not-status/registration-form/

For more information get in touch with us:

antonellasgobbo@aditus.org.mt

 


Transnational Conference “Education, Participation, Integration – Erasmus+ and Refugees”

From 19 till 20 April 2016 I took part in the Transnational Conference “Education, Participation, Integration-Erasmus+ and Refugees”, hosted by the German Erasmus + National Agency NA-BIBB “Nationale Agentur Bildung für Europa beim Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildungin”, in Essen, Germany.

The Conference hosted 280 people coming from 25 different European countries, including representatives of educational institutions (higher education, vocational and adult education and schools), the youth sector, local authorities, employment agencies, chambers, enterprises and stakeholders involved in the employment and education integration of refugees into.

The Conference offered an innovative networking opportunity to support institutions and organizations with facilitating the integration of refugees, focusing on the validation of new appropriate methods (like non-formal and informal learning methods), unconventional training activities for refugees and to integrate them in the Europe’s education systems, and innovative approaches for vocational and educational staff.

The conference included two sessions with practical actions in small thematic groups, conversations with artists and keynote contributors, and presentation of good practises emphasizing cross-cultural experiences.

Also, there was a market-place for projects and a cultural dinner for social networking. The final panel discussion gave an overview of the Erasmus+ programme and the challenges of Member States to remove multiple barriers faced by refugees in terms of access to education and employment.

 


Improved human rights harmonisation: our submissions on the Equality Bill

aditus foundation is pleased to present its feedback on the Equality Bill, as presented by the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties (MSDC) on 10 December, 2015.

The Bill seeks to consolidate equality and anti-discrimination legislation currently in force, whilst also revising the list of anti-discrimination grounds and including new provisions relating to intersectional discrimination, third party interventions and positive duties.

Our submissions can be downloaded here (.pdf).

A comprehensive national framework that encompasses anti-discrimination legislation and supporting policies is crucial to mainstreaming and integrating people belonging to the various minority groups that exist within our society, such as gender and sexual minorities, religious minorities, racial or ethnic minorities, persons with a disability, age minorities and the like.

Minority groups face daily discrimination in education, employment, accessing goods and services, access to housing and healthcare, in the neighbourhood, in the use of public transport, when approaching public officers and authorities, in accessing places of entertainment and also in places of worship.

Although minority groups face discrimination in various spheres of life the number of complaints filed with the various existing equality bodies remains low. This could be attributed to a number of factors, such as lack of information, procedures being too burdensome, lack of specialised legal support and fear.

The current legal framework is piecemeal and is found in various legal instruments, each having a different scope (in some instances overlapping), a variety of actions for redress and different reporting or equality bodies.


This illustrates the complexity of both the legal framework and the procedural elements involved, resulting in the enormous difficulties that individuals and their legal advisors face when filing a complaint.

In view of the above:

  • The creation of one equality body to which individuals can file a complaint in relation to prohibited grounds of discrimination is a positive step. Nevertheless, there needs to be clarity on the relationship and interplay between the Human Rights and Equality Commission
  • and other equality bodies, such as the Ombudsman, the National Commission Persons with Disability and the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations;
  • The consolidation of laws into one harmonised Equality Act, which includes standard definitions and procedures, was long overdue and can only better the possibilities for redress for those persons who feel aggrieved. It, however, remains unclear which laws will be consolidated into the recast Equality Act and which laws will be repealed.
  • The Act should reflect and make reference to Malta’s international obligations under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the European Social Charter.

submissionscover