The case of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia highlights that basic protection for journalists in Malta deteriorated and that “impunity is prospering,” the International Federation of Journalists said in a report.
In a country report that forms part of the End Impunity Campaign 2018, the federation pointed out that the lack of media independence and media concentration as well as the lack of independent public service media governance and funding “are several indicators of high risk for media freedom and pluralism in Malta”.
The Journalists’ Federation formed part of an international freedom of expression mission to Malta, which took place last month and found that the Maltese authorities were not living up to their obligations to guaranty and safeguard freedom of expression and press freedom.
The mission report highlighted that Malta was the only EU country where political parties hold such extensive media ownership.
Journalists and Daphne’s relatives denounced the fact that the government uses its control of the State broadcaster TVM to under-report important news items, hiding them from viewers and readers when those items are harmful to the government and the Labour Party’s reputation, the IFJ said.
Malta is also one of a few countries in Europe that has no policy on media literacy and the lack of journalists trade unions to defend working conditions and protect journalists is alarming.
The organisation stressed that the existence of such unions would would help in making progress in Caruana Galizia’s case and would give a stronger and safer voice to other journalists. This growing environment of fear was leading to an insidious self-censorship from journalists, the report noted.
During their visit, the international organisations also noted Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s lack of availability for press interviews and scrutiny and said they were “appalled” by the government’s blockade of the protest memorial for Caruana Galizia.
This was a completely disproportionate response to a legitimate peaceful protest calling for justice for the murder of a journalist, they had said.
The EFJ reiterated that it was more urgent than ever that a public inquiry into who was behind her death was launched.
“Malta must urgently return to a path of true freedom of expression, the most essential pillar of any democracy,” it said.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi State agents at the country’s consulate in Istanbul. His death was condemned worldwide and Amnesty International launched a campaign calling on the UN secretary general to set up an independent investigation into his death.
Bulgarian television journalist Viktoria Marinova was also brutally murdered in October after being raped in broad daylight with her body left in a park. Last February, Slovakian journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová were also murdered.