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Two years of The Shift: Malta’s only newsroom funded by readers

Caroline Muscat and other winners on stage at the Press Freedom Awards 2019 with former editor of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger and Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

The Shift is two years old. We want to pause for a moment from our work to take a look at just how far we’ve come in our second year thanks to your support.

Only a few days ago, The Shift’s work got an honorary mention at one of the biggest media events in Berlin, the Golden Victoria Awards, that builds on the recognition of our work received with the award of the international Press Freedom prize for Independence by Reporters Without Borders.

Take a look at some of the highlights this year in this video:

Our investigations have gone from strength to strength

We broke the story on the hidden owners behind the Vitals Global Healthcare deal, and we pursued the money trail to their offshore accounts holding Maltese taxpayer money. A second magistrate has just ruled that three Ministers – Chris Cardona, Konrad Mizzi and Edward Scicluna – should be investigated. The Ministers keep attacking The Shift rather than answering questions on the evidence presented in their appeals filed in Court to halt an inquiry.

We exposed the White Flag environmental scandal, saving taxpayers thousands of euro that Ministers were throwing into a scam for publicity. Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana alone committed €30,000 – and we had to find out through a Freedom of Information request. We are now pushing for them to make an effort to recover funds given to a fraudster.

We showed you how Maltese courts are enabling Gordon Debono, a suspected fuel smuggler facing sanctions, to launder dirty money. This escaped the notice of all the authorities involved until The Shift revealed the manoeuvres made through different offshore companies.

And we revealed the games your MPs play to hide their assets from the public. The government made a point of saying we were wrong and unleashed Josef Caruana from the office of the prime minister who demanded an apology, setting the narrative for Party trolls. He didn’t get one. And tax submissions showed that The Shift was right – Junior Minister Silvio Schembri who is responsible for regulating financial services in Malta had declared only half his income to parliament.

We’re also being invited to collaborate in European investigations, thanks to the strength of our international network. Our work on ‘Grand Theft Europe’ showed Malta’s role in a scam worth €50 billion annually.

Our work has been recognised internationally with a major Press Freedom Award. And our revelations on stories — including Vitals — were adopted in reports by major European bodies.

These efforts sustain our democracy over divisive partisan politics

We also expanded our roster of columnists this year to bring you hard-hitting analysis of the country’s most important issues, with Ranier Fsadni, Petra Caruana Dingli and Ryan Murdock.

And we’ve reached out to bring Malta to Europe, connecting local events with what’s happening on the continent. The Shift was invited to London by leading press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders for a panel debate launching the World Press Freedom Index held at the Bloomberg building.

Caroline Muscat along with Rebecca Vincent (RSF), Turkish journalist Erol Onderoglu, and John Fraher from Bloomberg at the 2019 World Press Freedom Index launch in London.

We’ve met European politicians to discuss press freedom issues and we’ve featured in countless interviews and documentaries on international media to sustain the demand for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia. The Shift addressed audiences at major international journalism festivals and conferences on press freedom, working for better legislation to protect journalists.

And we were there to cover major developments for the country when it mattered, such as the critical vote at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on the report on the investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination and the rule of law in Malta. We were the only ones there and we brought you first-hand reports on developments.

We’re there when it matters

Nobody thought we’d come this far, but we did with your support. And the government isn’t liking it. They tried to ignore us, but our work keeps haunting them. So they’re turning up the heat, having to once again adopt the tactics used against Daphne.

Three government Ministers slammed The Shift’s reporting in Court to avoid an inquiry, leading to Reporters Without Borders issuing an alert that threats against this news portal have increased.

We’re hit with cyberattacks almost every week, but your support has allowed us to invest in the tools needed to prevent loss of service. The Shift has the most registered threats in Malta, according to European monitoring portals.

There’s a wall of silence from the government – threats are denied while hate speech is defended as freedom of expression. The larger attacks against us are paralleled by a constant stream of attacks from their trolls, including Josef Caruana.

Every time they hit us, our readers respond

Thank you to everyone who pledged, donated and supported The Shift over the last two years.

We said when we launched that ‘The Shift is your project’, and we have created the only model in Malta of a newsroom funded by our readers through voluntary contributions. The public’s support is what has allowed us to come this far. This is your success. Let’s keep this project running. Support The Shift — for the stories we still need to tell.

You can make a donation here.

Special thanks to Pierre Ellul of Falkun Films for the video on our two-year anniversary.

Paul Caruana Galizia shortlisted for British Journalism Award

Law courts

The Attorney General’s unappealing intention