Updated at 8pm with IĠM statement

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi has again failed to issue a press call to the independent media houses for conferences, instead inviting only the Labour Party television channel and the national broadcaster. 

According to the minister’s Instagram page, on which he uploads regular updates about his engagements, Dr Mizzi visited the Malta Film Commission on Tuesday morning, yet no press call was issued.

Dr Mizzi's decision to not inform the press drew condemnation from the Institute of Maltese Journalists, which said the minister's "hide-and-seek tactics" were unacceptable (see below).

The matter, which the Times of Malta has been monitoring for months, had already made headlines when the Panama Papers first broke. At the time, the Institute of Maltese Journalists had urged Dr Mizzi to give equal access to all media houses.

Dr Mizzi was back in the headlines last week after a joint investigation between Times of Malta and Reuters revealed that one of the Electrogas power station shareholders, Yorgen Fenech, owned secret company 17 Black, which the minister’s own financial advisers named as a ‘target client’ of Dr Mizzi’s offshore company.

The minister has called the news part of a "coordinated attack" against him.

While not issuing a press call through the government’s Department of Information, as is the standard practice for all Cabinet members, Dr Mizzi has lately taken to social media to showcase interviews he gives to One TV and TVM.

In July, the Times of Malta sent questions to Dr Mizzi’s office asking why he had not issued a press call for the unveiling of a car park. No reply was forthcoming.

Times of Malta also asked the Tourism Minister’s office why he had been, for months, repeatedly not inviting the independent media to his events, pointing out that he was the only minister doing so. These too remained unanswered.

Last month, a group of media freedom NGOs had urged Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to guarantee independent media “full, regular access and interviews”.

'Unacceptable hide-and-seek tactics'

The Institute of Maltese Journalists was strongly critical of Dr Mizzi, accusing him of "deliberate discriminatory tactics" aimed at shielding him from difficult questions about his alleged misconduct. 

"The minister is duty-bound to give Maltese journalists reasonable access... instead of employing hide-and-seek tactics to spurn the free press," the IĠM said. 

"By bypassing the free press and speaking only to the national broadcaster and party media, the government short-circuits a public bond of trust with the free press, readers and society. Government ministers are democratically elected... and the y are expected to account for their decisions and actions by also interacting with the press". 

Dr Mizzi had already made headlines for similar reasons in the past.Dr Mizzi had already made headlines for similar reasons in the past.

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