Malta’s media freedom ‘particularly worrying’ – Council of Europe

The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly has listed Malta as one of the Member States where the situation concerning media freedom and safety of journalists “is particularly worrying”.

The assembly listed Malta alongside Azerbaijan, Hungary, the Russian Federation, and Turkey, while problems “are observed in various proportions in most countries”.

On Tuesday, a resolution was adopted based on the report prepared by parliamentarian Lord George Foulkes from the United Kingdom. 

In the resolution report, the Assembly called on Malta to “urgently” end the prevailing climate of impunity and implement the PACE Resolution, as well as to repeal any laws allowing the posthumous pursuit of defamation cases, targeting journalists, against their heirs.

“It is unacceptable that over 30 posthumous civil defamation proceedings against Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family are still underway,” the report said. “The Maltese authorities’ attitude helps to stoke a climate of impunity and minimisation of the importance of this case, with grave consequences for the freedom of the press in the country”.

Listing instances of non-state assaults, physical attacks and verbal abuse on the media in different media states, the report mentioned the cyber attack which The Shift News was subjected to in January 2019, in attempt to block the site following the publication of a series of investigative articles about controversial contracts relating to hospital concessions.

The report also welcomed the recently revised media law eliminating criminal libel.

The parliamentarians called on Council of Europe bodies, including the assembly, to keep advocating the development of a safe environment for journalists and other media players in all European countries and beyond, and to make use of all their leverage “to prompt member States to remedy quickly and effectively any threats to media freedom”, urging support for the reforms required to achieve this aim, it said.

Between 2015 and 25 November 2019, 26 journalists were killed, there were 22 cases of impunity, and 102 journalists are currently in detention, according to information published by the Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists. Another 638 “serious” press freedom violations have also been reported in 39 countries.

“Threats to media freedom and the safety of journalists have become so numerous, repeated and serious that they are jeopardising not only citizens’ right to be properly informed but also “the stability and smooth functioning of our democratic societies”, the assembly said.

The parliamentarians called on member States to create an enabling and favourable media environment and to review their legislation to this end, seeking to prevent any misuse of different laws or provisions which may impact on media freedom.

They condemned the rise of aggressive behaviour and violent verbal attacks by political figures and representatives of the authorities against journalists and called on “all political leaders to combat this phenomenon”.

                           
                               
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