Despite Malta’s press freedom environment improving according to the 2022 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, the situation remains “problematic”.
The report, which was published on World Press Freedom Day, revealed that Malta’s press freedom environment is now ranked 78th in the world, a slight rise from last year’s ranking at 81st. However, the press freedom environment in Malta is still being classified as “problematic”.
The media landscape in Malta plummeted in press freedom rankings from 45th place in 2013 to 77th in 2019 following the Labour Party’s win in 2013 and Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination in 2017. The score further decreased in 2020 and remained unchained until this year with Malta moving from 81st to 78th.
The report credited Malta’s low rankings to the “highly polarised environment under the strong influence of political parties”. It also pointed out that the government has a very strong influence over the public broadcaster and uses public advertising to exert pressure on private media.
Whilst press freedom is guaranteed and enshrined in Malta’s constitution, the legal and regulatory framework is not conducive to journalists exercising their rights. Journalists are often denied access to information and are targets of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.
Whilst the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death contributed to the small improvement in Malta’s ranking, RSF credited the lack of convictions of those arrested for her assassination and slow implementation of press freedom reforms as part of the reason for Malta’s low ranking.
At this point in time, even after the recommendations of the public inquiry journalists are still victims of systematic harassment, information blackouts and threats. None of the reform recommendations from the public inquiry has been implemented, even though 10 months have passed since its publication.
Meanwhile, the EU’s institutions have been working towards protective measures for journalists and have also recently launched proceedings against Hungary for its violations of European law and human rights, including attempts to restrict media.
The European Commission also recently revealed groundbreaking legislation to protect journalists and citizens from abusive lawsuits, like SLAPPs designed to silence them.
The proposed law is the result of a group of MEPs from different political groups who came together after the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and called for the European Commission to promote an anti-SLAPP directive to counter attempts at silencing investigative journalism. At the time of her death, Daphne was facing over 40 lawsuits.
The Vice President of the European Commission revealed that she wanted to name the new anti-SLAPP directive “Daphne’s law” after Daphne.
Malta is the fourth lowest-ranking EU member state in the report, ranking just above Hungary, Bulgaria and Greece.
The World Press Freedom Index is an annual report published by Reporters Without Borders, seeking to evaluate the level of media freedom in a total of 180 countries worldwide.
What do you think about the press freedom situation in Malta?