The demand for €300,000 from The Shift to appease a claim for damages made by a Croatian Kristijan Curavić, the man behind the idea of the White Flag scheme, has been registered as a threat to press freedom by European portal Mapping Media Freedom.
The platform is a European project that tracks threats, violations and limitations imposed on media professionals.
Earlier this week, the legal representatives of Curavić wrote to The Shift, demanding a deposit of €300,000 into a bank account within 15 days for damages he claims to have suffered as a result of articles exposing the scam.
He also demanded a public apology published on The Shift together with a correction of “all false allegations”. The Shift is refuting all claims made in the letter and stands by its reporting.
In its reply, The Shift said it was prepared to present its documentary evidence and witnesses in court to corroborate its articles.
Thought up by Curavić, The White Flag project was meant to the marine environment around Malta’s beaches as ‘plastic-free’. Thousands of euro from the public and private sector were funnelled into this scheme, which was also endorsed by the government.
This is the latest of 55 threats registered in Malta with the media platform over the past five years.
An independent organisation with a scope that spans 43 countries, Mapping Media Freedom tracks risks faced by journalists on the job. Jurisdictions covered include EU Member States, candidates for membership and neighbouring countries.
Other recent threats to press freedom in Malta registered on Mapping Media Freedom include Ministers Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona and Edward Scicluna using “abusive language” to “threaten investigative journalism outlet” The Shift, as well as the cyberattacks against the news portal. Four threats against The Shift News were filed in one year.
The site also has registered threats against journalists from The Times of Malta and Newsbook and attempts to stop journalists in Malta from reporting on migrant arrivals, as well as the incident where the press was locked inside Castille. It records the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the attempts to silence her with libel suits.