“As things stand now, killing the truth appears to be the safest crime in the world,” Caroline Muscat, The Shift’s founder and managing editor, said during a presentation at the VDZ Publishers’ Summit in Germany.
“We will continue to fight for the right to know, the right to hold power to account, the right to justice, and we can only succeed with the support of our European colleagues,” Muscat said.
“It is in all our interest to do so because democracy in Europe is only as strong as its weakest link,” she added.
Muscat, who first set up The Shift four years ago, was invited to speak at the summit by Verband Deutscher Zeitschriftenverleger (VDZ) and Reporters Without Borders to discuss the overall situation of the independent press in Europe.
Among other issues, Muscat discussed the parallels and differences between the murders of journalist Ján Kuciak in Slovakia and Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, the extension of the climate of impunity in Malta which led to Caruana Galizia’s assassination, and The Shift’s contributions to the struggle for press freedom in Malta.
On Kuciak and Caruana Galizia, Muscat highlighted how both were killed for exposing corruption. The parallel extends to the links between the alleged masterminds in both cases and the respective ruling parties of each country, as well as to the way Kuciak and Caruana Galizia were treated prior to their assassination, which was a clear indication of declining press freedom across the EU.
“The comparisons end there. In Slovakia, there have been prosecutions and convictions. In Malta, while people have been arraigned, no trials have yet commenced. There’s been no convictions. There’s no justice,” Muscat said, adding that “those in power linked to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination remain free”.
The Shift’s founder further described how there was an extensive, government-controlled campaign to dehumanise Caruana Galizia, referring to the news portal’s six-month investigation into government hate groups that exposed the way the campaign was directed by individuals in positions of power.
She also referred to the fact that despite the fact that former Justice Minister Owen Bonnici was found guilty of breaching human rights by the Maltese courts for having continued his persistent, daily attempts to eradicate the protest memorial to Caruana Galizia from in front of the law courts in Valletta, Bonnici remains a member of Cabinet – a clear example of the lack of accountability.
„The best tools we have to fight back are our investigative skills… our power to publish“, mahnt Caroline Muscat @muscatcar der @TheShiftNews aus #Malta in ihrem Bericht über die Lage der #Pressefreiheit in #Europa #VDZPS21
— VDZ (@VDZPresse) November 4, 2021
“I set up the news portal The Shift to ensure that the stories Daphne was killed for exposing would not be silenced. For the last four years, we have continued to work on the investigations she was not allowed to finish,” Muscat said.
“Yet, every day is a struggle to survive. We are isolated, harassed, hit by lawsuits and threatened by SLAPPs, ignored by those in power. This should not be our reality,” she added.
Muscat further argued that in spite of the conclusions of the public inquiry, which unequivocally determined the State was responsible for her death by creating the climate of impunity that enabled her death, the same government remains in power.
“They continue to govern, they continue to use the power of incumbency, their control over the media, to ensure they are never held accountable. The public inquiry showed how dangerous it is to leave journalists isolated and power in EU Member States unchecked,” Muscat said.
“States need to step up and ensure journalists are safe not only within their own borders, but across borders too,” she added, pointing out that the government in Malta “dominates media ownership”, poisoning public discourse to the point where critics are regularly portrayed as ‘Enemies of the State’ on social media.
VDZ defines itself as the ‘umbrella organisation’ for all magazine publishers in Germany, an association that has been around since 1949. The Shift is Reporters Without Borders’ official media partner in Malta.