The Council of Europe yesterday published an alert on the cyber attack experienced by The Shift News following revelations of corruption on the public hospitals deal negotiated by Minister Konrad Mizzi.
The alert notes that the Maltese government has not responded, even after the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) demanded the Maltese government investigate the attack.
Last week, The Shift News experienced a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, which essentially involves flooding a website server with traffic from multiple sources until the site crashes. Such attacks are designed to take websites and servers offline at critical times. They are often politically motivated.
The Council of Europe alert, filed against an act “having chilling effects on media freedom” states: “On 14 January, the Shift News, an independent Maltese online news platform, experienced a vicious cyber attack aimed at taking the site down, following the publication of a series of investigative stories on controversial hospitals deal.”
The report was filed under the ‘platform to promote the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists’. It adds: “Since then the site has been targeted by a DDoS attack, which essentially involves flooding a website server with traffic from multiple sources until the site crashes. Such attacks are designed to take websites and servers offline at critical times.”
The report refers to the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Yet its Malta-based member, the IGM (Istitut tal-Ġurnalisti Maltin) which is meant to safeguard press freedom, has not said a word on the attack.
“We call on Malta to immediately and effectively investigate people behind the cyber attack against The Shift News. We know from Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination that Malta is dangerous for journalists. Time for authorities to take threats against them seriously,” the ECPMF said.
The attack started after the publication of the third story in a series of revelations that showed how secret owners of Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) funded the purchase of Technoline for €5 million before awarding themselves exclusivity of supply.
This followed on from two previous stories that outlined the specific deal that had been signed between Steward Healthcare and VGH that had previously been hidden from the public.
This agreement showed that VGH was sold to Steward Healthcare for €1, receiving a concession worth €70 million per year from Maltese taxpayers for up to 99 years.
The series revealed that the hidden owners of Vitals, protected by the government, fleeced taxpayers’ money to build an international network of companies to serve other countries. They abandoned the concession in Malta after receiving over €50 million from taxpayers, delivering nothing and leaving a trail of debt behind.
The same Council of Europe platform has previously issued similar alerts regarding libel proceedings filed against Daphne Caruana Galizia by members of government, as well as her unsolved murder in October 2017.