Since its foundation, the Institute of Maltese Journalists (originally set-up as The Malta Press Club – TMPC) has endeavoured to upgrade journalism in Malta. Ethics, together with Education and Professionalisation, were identified as the three principles the IĠM should pursue to achieve this objective.
In November 1991, following various meeting between The Malta Press Club and the now defunct Institute of Broadcasters, a code of journalistic ethics was launched, following approval by the members of both organisations. That Code, launched during a press conference on 11 November 1991, provided for the setting up of the Journalistic Ethics Council, which was to be the precursor of the present Press Ethics Commission (PEC).
In February 1996, a policy document prepared by TMPC’s Education and Information Secretary, Carmel Bonello, was presented during a seminar for all Maltese journalists. Among others, this document put forward new concepts for the promotion of journalistic ethics, including guidelines for submission and handling of complaints, as well as for a revision of the former Journalistic Ethics Council. The document suggested the setting up of a body called the Press Ethics Commission (PEC) and its composition.
The new PEC became operational in January 1999 under the chairmanship of Notary Myriam Spiteri Debono. In 2001, the Chief Justice Emeritus, Professor Giuseppe Mifsud Bonnici, was appointed Chairman. In 2009 Dr Kevin Aquilina succeeded him. Following Dr Aqulina’s resignation, Dr Kevin Dingli succeeded him in June 2010.
Press Ethics Commission
Dr Kevin Dingli – firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Joe C. Cordina – email@example.com
Rules of Procedure – Press Ethics Commission
1. The Press Ethics Commission is nominated by the Council of The Institute of Maltese Journalists and shall consist of a Chairman and six members.
2. The Chairman and at least one of the members shall belong to the legal profession.
3. The Commission shall hold office for two years but any one of the members is eligible to be nominated again after the term of office has ended.
4. A secretary to the Commission shall be nominated by the Council after consulting the Chairman of the Commission. The Secretary shall carry out such administrative duties as the Chairman shall direct. He is not entitled to take part in the discussions of the Commission and shall have no right to vote.
5. The Commission shall meet whenever this is necessary and shall be convened in writing by the Secretary as directed by the Chairman. However there shall normally be a monthly meeting on a given day of each month as shall be established by the Commission from time to time.
6. The quorum for a valid meeting shall be of four members and if the Chairman is not present the members shall proceed to nominate one of them to act as Chairman for that meeting.
7. When a meeting arrives at a disciplinary decision and the Chairman or the other member of the Commission who has a legal qualification is not present that decision shall be held over to be reported to the Chairman. If the decision does not meet with his approval he shall as soon as may be convene a meeting to explain his dissent and the decision reached after this shall be the decision of the Commission.
8. Each member has a vote including the Chairman, who also has a casting vote in case of a tie.
9. Decisions taken shall be registered in the Minutes which shall also indicate the votes cast for and against without indicating the names of the voters. Any abstentions shall also be recorded.
10. Complaints against bona fide journalists alleging breach of Journalistic Ethics can be made to the Commission by any person who considers himself to be injured by the breach. Complaints shall be addressed to the Chairman or the secretary and if they are received by the Council of The Institute of Maltese Journalists these shall be immediately redirected to the Chairman or the secretary without delay.
11. Complaints shall be in writing and duly signed by the person aggrieved or by a person charged to act in his behalf. The complaint shall be accompanied by a copy of the impugned writing or transcript of the broadcast, or by a film or video as the case may be.
12. Complaints shall be made within the period of one month from the date of the publication of the alleged breach. The secretary shall acknowledge receipt of every complaint.
13. The Commission shall at its first meeting after receiving the complaint examine prima facie the contents of the same and establish whether the case can be heard on the first available date. If the Commission considers that additional documentary or other essential information is necessary before it can proceed with a hearing, it shall first request the same from the complainant and shall only fix a date for the hearing when the documentation or information requested has been supplied.
14. When the case is set down to be heard, a copy of the complaint and all the documentation shall be forwarded to the journalist against whom the complaint has been made. The journalist may, if he so wish send to the Commission any written on the case but he is not obliged to do so.
15. On the date set for the hearing of the complaint, the Commission shall hear the complainant and his witnesses if any and shall then hear the journalist and his witnesses if any. Both the complainant and the journalist may be assisted by any other trusted person.
16. The proceedings shall be conducted by the Chairman who shall rule on any point of procedure which may arise.
17. The Commission shall in its deliberations and decisions observe the principles of Justice. The normal rules of procedure shall, as much as possible, guide the proceedings.
18. If the complainant fails to appear for the hearing and his absence is not deemed to be justified, the Commission shall not take any further notice of the complaint. If the journalist who is called for the hearing fails to appear and his absence is deemed to be unjustified the Commission may decide to proceed with the hearing in absentia.
19. The proceedings of the Commission shall be conducted in the Maltese Language unless the journalist accused of a breach who is not a Maltese citizen requests that the English Language be used in his case.
20. The Minutes of the res gestae of the Commission may be kept in English unless the Commission decides otherwise as it deems necessary, from time to time.
21. The Secretary shall reply to any correspondence received in the same language which is used by the correspondent.
22. The Commission shall begin the proceedings when the complainant and the journalist are present for the first meeting, offer to the parties the possibility of acting as a mediator in order to reach between them an amicable settlement of the dispute.
23. If the parties agree to accept the mediation, a member of the Commission shall be chosen by the Chairman to act as a mediator. The Chairman shall privately consult the parties and his choice shall be made in accordance with their wishes.
24. When the mediation offer is accepted the case will be adjourned sine die and will be reconvened by the Chairman following the report to him by the mediator as to whether a settlement has been reached or the case has to be considered by the Commission.
25. When the Commission decides that a breach has been committed it shall condemn the transgressor and inflict one or more of the sanctions contained in the Code so as to reflect the gravity of the offence.
26. The decisions of the Commission shall in all cases be communicated to the complainant, the journalist accused of the breach and the Head of the Organization in which he works, and the Chairman of The Institute of Maltese Journalists.
27. The Secretary shall during the month of January draw up a concise report of the workings of the Commission during the preceding calendar year. The report shall be signed by the Chairman and the Secretary, and shall be sent to the Council of The Institute of Maltese Journalists.
Report to the Press Ethics Commission