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Expats accuse Arriva of censorship over adverts

European nationals who live in Malta gathered outside the Prime Minister’s office in Valletta in May to deliver a petition complaining they were being discriminated against. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

European nationals who live in Malta gathered outside the Prime Minister’s office in Valletta in May to deliver a petition complaining they were being discriminated against. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

European expats living in Malta are accusing Arriva of censorship for removing from buses adverts urging an end to discriminatory fares. The expats insist that EU nationals are discriminated against by being charged more than their Maltese neighbours for several services, including car registration, energy bills and bus fares.

They instituted a class action lawsuit in December, a constitutional case in February and, in May, presented a petition to the Prime Minister demanding equal treatment. Last month, the group decided to promote their cause through adverts on a number of Arriva route buses.

The Arms Class Action Group launched its Up In Arms poster campaign on buses in mid-August but less than a month later, it was informed that the bus service operator had pulled the plug on their campaign, spokeswoman Patricia Graham said.

The posters read: Stop the discriminatory pricing for EU citizens in Malta. They included the Up In Arms slogan and an e-mail address that can be used to help fund the campaign.

The group said last Thursday it was informed that, concerned about the political and controversial content of the advert, the operator removed the posters from its buses.

Questions about the matter sent to Arriva by Times of Malta remained unanswered at the time of writing despite several attempts to contact a spokesman.

This is about freedom of speech. We paid money for the adverts

A spokeswoman for the Transport Ministry said when contacted, that neither the ministry nor Transport Malta had ordered the removal of any adverts and suggested the newspaper directed its questions to Arriva.

In the meantime, the advertising company that handled the campaign refunded “every single penny” to the Up In Arms group.

Ms Graham expressed her counterparts’ frustration: “This is about freedom of speech. We paid money for the adverts. The issue screams censorship.”

She pointed out that the funds had been raised from among the 2,500 members of the group and the plan was to run the posters until mid-November. The group has been approached by other advertisers to take their campaign elsewhere in Malta.

Up In Arms wants to take the campaign beyond Malta’s shores and is eyeing national newspapers in other EU states to warn those wanting to settle in Malta what they would have to put up with.

The group is also planning to approach EU heads of State and of government.

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