On 27 June 2022 Parliament’s Standards Committee authorised the publication of a case report by the Commissioner for Standards concerning official advertisements that appeared in a newspaper supplement.
The supplement in question had been issued by the newspaper KullĦadd on 16 January 2022 to mark two years since the Hon. Dr Robert Abela became Prime Minister. The supplement consisted of 32 pages, most of which were devoted entirely to government advertisements. There were eighteen government advertisements varying from one to four pages in length.
The Standards Commissioner considered this case on the basis of guidelines on government advertising and promotional material that he had issued the previous year, following an earlier case involving official advertisements published by a government ministry.
In his case report the Commissioner concluded that the publication of official advertisements in the supplement was not justified because the aim of the supplement was to praise a political leader and celebrate the second anniversary of his taking office. A political publication of this nature should not have been supported by means of official advertisements paid out of public funds. The Commissioner stated that this represented “the erasure of the dividing line between government and party”.
In addition, several advertisements included photographs of ministers and a few also included statements of a political nature. This was contrary to the Commissioner’s guidelines.
The Commissioner submitted his case report to the Standards Committee on 1 June 2022. The Committee discussed the report for the first time on 27 June and agreed that it should be published. The Committee is still to decide whether or not to adopt the report.
The Commissioner’s report on this case is available from here.