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Together Gibraltar’s ‘fireside chat’ prompts exchange over free speech

Together Gibraltar Movement 2017 ( Photo John Bugeja) 27-09-17. Marlene Hassan Nahon announces a civic platform designed to allow citizens to make their voices heard.

The Gibraltar Government has dismissed claims by Together Gibraltar that it was “stifling” free speech by refusing to allow two senior public officials participate in a debate organised by the party.

Independent MP Marlene Hassan-Nahon, who leads Together Gibraltar, claimed the government had ‘removed’ two panellists – Daniella Tilbury, the commissioner for sustainable development, and Sian Jones, a senior advisor at the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission – from the debate on the basis that they ‘work for government’.

Writing on social media, she said the debate was not party political and that the GSLP/Liberals, which had campaigned in the 2011 general election to allow civil servants to speak openly, now had “zero credibility”.

But the government said the decision to pull out of the event, which took place in Together Gibraltar’s headquarters and had been promoted using the party’s branding, was taken by the speakers themselves.

General Orders prevent senior public officials from speaking publicly on matters of political controversy and from publicly expressing personal political views.

“In the case of Together Gibraltar’s ‘Fireside Chat’, both speakers withdrew from the event of their own accord upon learning that the event was being marketed as a Together Gibraltar event at Together Gibraltar’s party political offices,” the government said in a statement.

“As senior public officials, their attendance at any public political event, regardless of the organising party, would be inappropriate.”

“In both cases, this was a personal decision made by the individual.”

“The government did not ask anybody to withdraw from the event. It certainly did not prohibit anyone from attending.”

Ms Tilbury is due to speak at several other non-political events this week to mark International Women’s Day, including one in Gibraltar, another in La Linea and a third in Asilah, Morocco.

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