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‘The cycle of abuse against female journalists in Malta is repeating itself’

Daphne Caruana Galizia portrait University of Aberdeen
The portrait of Daphne Caruana Galizia unveiled on Monday at the University of Aberdeen conference on defamation law.

“The cycle of abuse against female journalists in Malta is repeating itself,” Al Jazeera reports on the state of media freedom in the country.

‘The battle to stay alive as a female journalist’ tackled cases where female journalists have come under attack.

Two-thirds of female journalists have experienced sexual, physical, and/or online abuse, according to a 2018 report by the International Women’s Media Foundation. It also found that 20% of victims did not report the incident, with over half saying they did not think anything would be done.

Al Jazeera echoed the views of many recent reports stating that hostility towards journalists is being normalised around the world, as more and more strongman populist leaders who “routinely demonise journalists” come to power.

The result is that “dozens of journalists are killed every year…in countries with weak rule of law”. It adds that perpetrators are brought to justice in just one of 10 cases.

The report also delves into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, noting that “no one has been prosecuted in connection with the attack”.

Sarah Clarke, ARTICLE 19’s Head of Europe and Central Asia, said: “With the rise of populism, institutions, such as the judiciary, police, and investigative bodies, that are supposed to protect journalists have weakened”.

When leaders such as US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan brand journalists as “traitors” and “enemy of the people”, they pave the way for an “extremely dangerous” rhetoric that can result in threats, violence and, ultimately, assassinations, Clarke said.

Clarke said Malta, a member state of the Council of Europe and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, had “fallen short on all national and international standards” in the investigation into Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

She expressed her concern to see that the “cycle of abuse” against female journalists in Malta is continuing with the harassment of journalist Caroline Muscat, founder and editor of The Shift News.

“It shows us that the Maltese government has learnt nothing,” Clarke added.

As well as being targeted with libel suits, threats of SLAPP suits, cyber attacks, and online harassment in secret Labour Party Facebook hate groups that The Shift News exposed, memes have also circulated saying Muscat “deserves more bombs” – a direct reference to the car bomb that took Caruana Galizia’s life in October 2017.

The article also focused on the murder of Chechen journalist and human rights activist Natalia Estemirova who was abducted, shot dead, and dumped 10 years ago. No one has been prosecuted for her murder. Two years earlier, her friend, journalist and a vocal Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, was murdered in her apartment in St Petersburg.

On Monday, a joint statement signed by winners of the annual Anna Politkovskaya Award, Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, and Reach All Women in War called for an investigation into Estemirova’s murder. Human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have also called on Russia to take action.

Petra Caruana Dingli at The Shift News

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