‘Je suis Charlie’ my foot

It is with great dismay that The Shift team reads the statement signed by the editors of the Times of Malta, Malta Today and The Malta Independent claiming that The Shift has carried out “a vicious and dishonest claim” in its article published by the International Press Institute. The article is based on facts and reliable source information.

There is nothing in the text that can be credibly described as “vicious” and/or “dishonest”. If the article, which was penned by more than one author with no editorial interference,  makes for uncomfortable reading by describing a real issue with Malta’s independent press, that is another matter.

The team also fails to understand why this article has caused such a knee-jerk reaction and why it has been read as if it took direct aim at the above-mentioned three newsrooms, which it did not.

Describing and acknowledging the problems independent newsrooms have faced, or might still be facing, and the adjustments to editorial policy that these problems necessitated, particularly during the pandemic, is by no means an attack.

It’s a form of introspection – something we could all beneficially indulge in more frequently. What’s more, the issue of government-funded advertising was just one of the three issues mentioned in the article.

The other two were the problem of having party-owned media outlets, and how the reporting on the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry was delayed and the consequences of that delay. One assumes that on these two points the editors mentioned above can agree.

However, the issue of lack of transparency about the allocation of government funding remains. So much so that during the public inquiry hearing on Tuesday Chief Justice Emeritus Joseph Said Pullicino, when learning about the tiered system the government used to allocate funds, noted that “this should not be the way funds are administered”.

When the three newsrooms published their statement in a coordinated manner, the IGM President was in court confirming concerns raised by The Shift’s article. The Times of Malta report on the testimony conveniently ignored the part on COVID funds to media outlets questioned by the panel of judges, while it led with the headline ‘Daphne’s murder spurred unity among journalists’ without any sense of irony.

The Shift has never received the ‘statement’ by the IGM, nor was it published. The newsrooms have said we did not ask the questions – they’re wrong. The article was based on several Freedom of Information requests filed.

The European Parliament today adopted a resolution on strengthening media freedom: the protection of journalists in Europe, hate speech, disinformation and the role of platforms. Point C in the resolution reads:

“…whereas some Member States limit the freedom of the media through economic means, such as distorted public advertising among media outlets that alters competition, and directly control public media in order to influence editorial decisions and thus ensure pro-government loyalty; whereas public authorities should adopt a legal and regulatory framework which fosters the development of free, independent and pluralistic media;”

Point T further states:

“whereas in some Member States, State aid for media outlets has not been handled transparently, which puts these outlets’ independence and credibility at serious risk”

As these texts highlight, these issues are not ones The Shift pulled out of thin air.

Discussions at a European level underlined that funding should be managed by independent organisations in order to avoid any interference with editorial decision-making and that support should be provided only for those public and commercial media outlets that are truly independent and free from government or any other interference.

That our mediascape is unique and complicated due to party-owned media is a fact. That the government allocated close to €1 million in COVID-19 aid to help media houses is a fact. That the government has in the past used publicly funded advertising to exert pressure on newsrooms is a fact. That the current amounts allocated between newsrooms are unknown is a fact. That the terms agreed to are unknown is a fact. There is nothing dishonest about a critical appraisal of these issues.

The Shift is not throwing anyone “under a bus”. We asked a simple but difficult question and the reaction this has elicited shows just how difficult that question is and why it is so important that it is debated. It is a disservice to readers not to do so.

                           
                               
guest
7 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Edward
Edward
4 months ago

We should assume that the terms were more than simply “Make government look good”.

For some time now it has been my suspicion that the Labour government has been trying to drive a wedge between those fighting for Justice for Daphne by stirring the pro-choice apologists. Euthanasia is also been bandied about, again by Labour members, again, I would hazard, seeking to divide the Broadchurch of activists campaigning to hold Labour to account.

Both these divisive issues, although wholly unpopular among the general public, can cause friction between the more Liberal minded who make up the bulk of activists at the moment. Not all are Liberal, and not all are Leftists. They’re a mix of Conservative, Liberal and Leftists who have a common mission. A mission that Labour benefit greatly from if thwarted. (Thankfully, none of these issues has had any impact on the resolve of the activists in question.)

So the terms may well be much broader and could easily be part of a much wider plan. This is Labour, after all. You do wrong to underestimate how deviant they all are.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
4 months ago

What a sad day for the free press. The Labour government managed to destroy the free press without the need of burning them.

Pierre Mallia
Pierre Mallia
4 months ago

as a believer in plurality and freedom of the press, i find the not so subtle way that media freedom is manipulated by the state a first step towards eventual control. lest we forget that the Times newsroom itself was warned by Daphne when she broke the Hillman/Kasco story. One can appreciate the financial difficulties under which newsrooms operate – but taking non-transparent handouts from a government like the current one is not on.

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
4 months ago

Maybe that media houses are being given packets of Euro 500 to shut their mouth.
How miserable this country has stooped so low.

Aggie
Aggie
4 months ago

You must have touched a nerve, well done. Nothing wrong with a media outlet telling the truth.

Henry s Pace
Henry s Pace
4 months ago

NOW bobby corrupted the media houses .
As george vella said what is done in Malta stays in Malta!

Related Stories

‘Je suis Charlie’ my foot
It is with great dismay that The Shift team
The light of a new dawn
It is The Shift’s third anniversary. It was born