The freedom of the press in Malta is on a downward spiral, according to the latest analysis by the Reporters Without Borders, which ranks the tiny island as the second worst in Europe in this regard.
The 2019 World Press Freedom Index ranks Malta in 77th place, a decline of 12 points from the previous year, which places us below countries such as Togo, Mongolia, Malawi, Niger, Tunisia and Kosovo.
Malta had dropped 18 points in the RSF’s previous index, but this was to be expected following the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
However, the press experts have warned that the situation has continued to deteriorate since then
It flags the government’s reluctance to conduct an independent public inquiry into whether Caruana Galizia’s murder could have been avoided, an exercise the Justice Minister has warned will clash with ongoing police investigations into the murder.
“The government’s reluctance comes in an increasingly hostile environment for independent journalists in Malta receiving threats for their reporting on corruption, and increasingly isolated in a compromised media landscape,” RSF states.
It also flagged how Labour and PN own their own media houses and how PBS rarely reports on corruption due to “bias towards the government”. As for the independent press, it claimed it is increasingly dependent on massive advertising expenditure by the government and that this conditions them to push “pro-government agendas”.
“Investigative reporting is lacking, save for a handful of journalists working against the current, who are increasingly exposed to threats as a result of partisan division and loyalties,” it added. “MPs and members of government openly attempt to discredit independent journalists while actively silencing any calls from civil society for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia.”
Finally, RSF noted how Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is still pursuing a libel case against Caruana Galizia over the Egrant story and how the government has refused the Opposition’s request to legislate against financially crippling ‘SLAPP’ libel lawsuits overseas.
Cover photo: Newspapers unite with identical front pages following the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017