International press freedom organisations have said in a statement today that their offer for technical assistance in the implementation of the public inquiry findings has not been taken up by Prime Minister Robert Abela, despite his declaration of having held a broad and meaningful consultation before appointing a committee to oversee press freedom reforms.
“We have been concerned by a lack of transparent consultation with civil society and key stakeholders in this process to date. We urge the Prime Minister to engage in meaningful and transparent consultation going forward, in particular through publishing proposed legislation relating to media freedom,” nine international organisations said in a statement reacting to the government’s announcement of those appointed to the committee.
On Tuesday, the government announced those chosen to form part of the committee to implement press freedom reforms following the recommendations of the findings of the public inquiry into journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
The government’s move followed a comprehensive Bill presented by the Opposition to address the public inquiry’s recommendations. Since the public inquiry was published in July 2021, the only move made by the government so far was to appoint the committee and it has been with controversy despite the Prime Minister’s claims of consensus.
The international organisations reacting to the government’s announcement include the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Press Institute (IPI), European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the largest journalists’ union – the European Federation of Journalists.
Malta: government must do better to guarantee #MediaFreedom
via @efjeurope @article19org @ECPMF @IFEX @AEJBelgium @RSF_inter @IndexCensorship @globalfreemedia @pen_int @CPJ_Eurasia #DaphneCaruanaGalizia
— Ricardo Gutiérrez (@Molenews1) January 14, 2022
They say their offer of support has not been taken up by the government. “While our offer of technical assistance to the Prime Minister has to date not been taken up, we continue to stand ready to assist the process”.
The committee announced by the government includes Saviour Balzan, co-owner of Media Today, and the online editor of one of his newspapers, Kurt Sansone. Times of Malta assistant editor Matthew Xuereb, academic Carmen Sammut, editor of The Malta Independent Neil Camilleri, criminology lecturer Saviour Formosa and lawyer Kevin Dingli.
#DaphneCaruanaGalizia: @RobertAbela_MT must prove recent press freedom reform announcement is more than a PR exercise to placate international criticism. Real change will take time, patience and be open to scrutiny. https://t.co/rGnzRSleli @VeraJourova @dreynders @SophieintVeld pic.twitter.com/bqlIuAu9jl
— Tom Gibson (@at_tgibson) January 14, 2022
“In our meetings and communications with Prime Minister Abela, our organisations emphasised the need for the full independence of the Commission of Experts to ensure that the terms of reference of the Commission meet international standards and that the composition of the Commission reflects the expertise of the press and the role it plays in a democracy: knowledge and experience needed to effectively undertake the full scope of responsibilities,” the statement by the international organisations adds.
They stressed the need for the committee to fulfil the obligations resulting from the public inquiry and “to operate free of government influence”.
The public inquiry recommendations include the recognition in law of journalism as the fourth pillar of democracy, and the need to create an enabling environment for independent journalism and measures to address impunity, corruption and the abuse of power.