The Malta Film Commission has been ordered to hand over to the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation electronic copies of invoices received in connection with David Walliams’ hosting of the Malta Film Awards in January this year.
The budget for the Malta Film Awards was €400,000, but Malta Film Week cost €1.3 million and the public was not told how the money was spent. The Foundation filed an access to information request.
Following the Film Commission’s refusal to release the information, as did the responsible Minister, a complaint was lodged with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner (IDPC) who ordered the Film Commission to make the information public.
The IDPC noted that the confidentiality clause in the agreement with Walliams could not be used to prevent the disclosure of the amount paid to him and that the Malta Film Commission had made no attempt to explain or substantiate his assertion that disclosure of the requested invoice would harm his business or that of Walliams.
When film commissioner Johann Grech was asked, in an interview with The Times of Malta, about Walliam’s contract, he said the Film Commission would “release all the figures after the Film Awards”. This does not happen.
The Foundation filed a formal complaint with the IDPC after the Film Commission rejected the Freedom of Information request, pointing out that the requested materials are not exempt under the Freedom of Information Act and that the law provides a legal way to issue documents with “all numbers” to those who request them, allowing the Film Commission to fulfill its promise of transparency.
The Foundation insisted that providing a copy of the invoices would not prejudice or harm the commercial interests of the Film Commission, or those of Walliams, as claimed by the Film Commission.
“Given Walliams’ extraordinary status as a celebrity, creator, writer and actor, who has over 2 million social media followers, it is highly unlikely that the amount he was paid to host the award harms his reputation and business interests, or affects against him,” the Foundation said in a statement.
The Malta Film Commission now has 20 days to lodge a complaint with the Appeals Tribunal or deliver copies of invoices.
The Shift is hosting a right to know debate on October 5th. Shift founder Caroline Muscat will be joined by Rebecca Vincent, international campaign director of Reporters Without Borders, and Corinne Vella of the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, who has filed a constitutional dossier for the reform of the FOI law. Please register to attend.