Malta, 5 March 2020 – Access Info today argued before the Maltese Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal that denying non-residents the right to request information violates Malta’s commitments under international human rights law, EU law, and its own Constitution.
The legal challenge relates to a refusal in August 2019 by Malta’s Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security to register a request on migrant returns made by Access Info’s Martina Tombini on the grounds that Malta’s FOI law states that only those who are EU citizens and have been resident for at least five years can submit requests.
In October 2019 the Information and Data Protection Commissioner upheld this refusal, rejecting arguments by Access Info that the provisions of Malta’s FOI law contravene international standards on the right of access to information, are a violation of the right to freedom of expression, and constitute discrimination.
Today’s hearing took these arguments up to the higher level of the Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal.
“We are excited to be in Malta and to have submitted to the Tribunal our arguments on how the right of access to information is a fundamental right that can be exercised without frontiers, regardless of nationality or residence,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info, emerging from the Court building.
“This is an important case to establish the universal nature of the right of access to information, something which has been confirmed by multiple human rights courts and the UN Human Rights Committee,” added Darbishire.
In its deposition to the Tribunal, Access Info argued that Malta’s current approach violates the fundamental right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and, indeed, Article 41 of the Constitution of Malta which states:
“no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference”
Access Info also argued that permitting only those resident in Malta for five years to make information requests constitutes discrimination under Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights. It also amounts to discrimination on grounds of nationality which is expressly prohibited under Article 18 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 21 of the European Charter of Fundamental Human Rights.
Next hearing is scheduled for 16 April.
For more information, please contact:
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director | Access Info Europe
firstname.lastname@example.org +34 637 226 609
Paula Domínguez, Communications Officer | Access Info Europe
email@example.com +34 913 656 558