Government: Azopardi “Maintained a Gagging Order Over All Public Servants” And Hassan Nahon is “Just Lashing Out”

The Government says that the GSD’s latest statement “pretending to be the champions of freedom of speech in Gibraltar” is as “hypocritical as it is absurd.”

The Minister for the Utilities, Albert Isola, said: “The public will judge the GSD and Mr Azopardi by nothing more damning or fatal than their own record.

“Whilst he was a Minister and Deputy Chief Minister in the Government, the GSD maintained and enforced a blanket gagging order which ensured that public servants were unable to express their views on all and any Government matters.

“Yes, unbelievable though the hypocrisy may sound, despite their statements today pretending to be champions of free speech, the GSD and Mr Azopardi as Deputy Chief Minister, gagged every single public servant on every single issue. Under Mr Azopardi and the GSD public servants were forced to remain silent for fear of losing their jobs if the commented on any matter.

“As soon as we were elected, we in the GSLP Liberal Government released the draconian gagging order which the GSD had maintained and enforced against public servants. The fact is that Fabian Picardo as Chief Minister ungagged public servants and delivered real freedom of speech. The reality is therefore the complete opposite of what Keith Azopardi is saying.

“Now the only remaining rule is that a public servant cannot speak out about matters which relate to their own department, but can otherwise comment on any issue of public interest. There are two important exceptions. The first is that a person can be a whistle blower under the law in respect of something happening in their department. The second is that persons are also free to comment via their union representatives in the normal way. That is the normal, liberal approach in a free society and it is much more favourable than under the draconian GSD and with Mr Azopardi as Deputy Chief Minister.

“We in the GSLP Liberal Government are defenders of the right for individuals to freely voice their opinions without fear of repercussions. It is, however, not in Gibraltar’s interest for public servants to be able to take to social media platforms to make comments about their own departments. There are proper procedures through which public servants can voice their concerns internally. That is the only restriction that public servants are now bound by, because we in the GSLP Liberals lifted the draconian rules maintained by the GSD and Mr Azopardi.

 “It is clear that the GSD and Mr Azopardi would be making Gibraltar entirely ungovernable if they were to permit public servants to be free to make public or social media comments about their own departments whenever they like. It is not in the public interests of Gibraltar to take that attitude. It is also not believable that the GSD and Mr Azopardi should pretend to take that attitude now given how they behaved when they were in Government.

“The statement from Ms Hassan Nahon is also frankly remarkable, given that it was the AACR, with which she is closely associated, that introduced the order gagging all public servants on all issues. Ms Hassan Nahon is looking to side with everyone on any issue against the Government. She is prepared to say whatever she has to say to try to improve her chances of success in the election. Instead of responsibly wanting to ask what went wrong and why we lost power on Friday, losing many businesses much needed profit at this post-pandemic period, she just tries to find votes by siding always against the Government. Anyone with the slightest perception can see through her transparent and shallow tactic. Her exaggeration in name calling is staggering, and yet she cannot stand to be called out on anything. In fact, as the Chief Minister told her during the recent Budget Session of the Parliament, the reality is that she is not up to the role of leading Gibraltar and the problem she has is that she knows it, her party knows it and the public know it. It hurts her to realise that and she lashes out in the way that she does, making wild accusations about people’s mental health, their honesty etc. It is a pity to see her sink so low.”

“Finally, we in the GSLP Liberals have given the GEA all the tools they have sought from us to be able to generate stable power reliably. We are right to ask questions on behalf of the tax payer when things go wrong. We are right to seek answers on behalf of the public. That is not ‘outrageous’ or ‘dictatorial’. It is the right thing to do and we will continue to do so.”