Malta has failed to improve its ranking on the World Press Freedom Index, remaining in 81st place for the second consecutive year in a row.
Countries like Panama, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo and Sierra Leone all rank higher than Malta according to the report.
The 2021 global index by Reporters Without Borders evaluates the press freedom situation in 180 countries and territories annually, with this year’s findings indicating that journalism is “completely or partly blocked” in 73% of the countries ranked.
Malta’s failure to improve its ranking was based on the events of the past year, which saw Maltese politicians resign over investigations into the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case.
“The public inquiry into the journalist’s death and wider circumstances is revealing a picture of political interference – intended to disrupt investigations and shift blame away from those at the helm of government,” the report read.
The report also cited government orders to clear tributes at the Daphne Caruana Galizia memorial site in Valletta as breaching “activists’ fundamental right to freedom of expression” along with the weakness of the rule of law and the challenges it creates for journalists in the country.
Another issue raised by the global index report is that of media threats, which has continued over the past year with the “denial of access to information or press events, toxic rhetoric by government officials, failure to recognise non-State issued press cards as well as unlawful detention of press members (including international press) following a press conference in late 2019.”
The latter point refers to an incident where journalists were barred from leaving Castille following a late-night press conference with former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in the height of the Yorgen Fenech revelations.
Lastly, Malta’s failure to improve in the global index is, in part, a result of the media landscape, which is “dominated by the two main political parties in the country, leading to propaganda and disinformation”.
Lovin Malta has tackled the issue head-on by officially filing a historic court case to determine whether propaganda on political party TV stations should be declared unconstitutional.
Malta has placed in the 81st position for two years in a row, down from 45th position in 2013.
Norway remains at the top of the list global index list followed by Finland, Sweden and Denmark.
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