Journalists raise ‘grave concerns’, urge PM for ‘transparent’ media reform

The Shift has joined journalists, broadcasters, researchers, and activists in signing a petition calling on Prime Minister Robert Abela to make good on his promises of strengthening the media sector and free speech, saying the lack of transparency with which the long-promised reform is being conducted is of “grave concern”.

Following the conclusions and recommendations of the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry in July 2021, Abela set up a Media Experts Committee tasked with providing recommendations on legislation to improve the media sector’s safety and transparency. Almost none of the public inquiry’s original recommendations have been implemented.

With over 130 signatories, the letter said, “free expression cannot be protected by secretly drawn up laws,” calling for the publishing of a report with recommendations from the government-appointed committee sent to the prime minister more than six weeks ago.

The letter called for the government’s intentions and any prospective legislative bills to be published first as a white paper, allowing for “an open and effective public consultation” before they are presented to Parliament.

“Without the active participation of members of the profession and of the public, this law will be secretly written. It cannot, therefore, reflect society’s needs and will, consequently, fail,” it said.

“We expect the State to implement all the [Daphne Caruana Galizia] Public Inquiry recommendations and to do so in a holistic manner,” the letter concluded.

The petition is the second letter sent to the Prime Minister in as many years, with a similar call made in September last year falling on deaf ears.

In April 2022, the media experts committee, appointed by Abela, completed an initial report reviewing the government’s ready-made legislative reform proposals for the sector. Abela chose to breach his own terms of reference for the committee, failing to publish it before the 2022 summer recess.

Following the report’s publication in late September 2022, severe backlash prompted Abela to halt the legislative introduction of the media reform proposals until the Media Experts Committee could conduct further consultation and produce a second report.

That second report, completed last June, has not yet been released. The Shift has since revealed that committee members made €18,000 each since their appointment by Abela.

The members of the Media Experts Committee, who signed a non-disclosure agreement with the government, did not sign the petition.

The full letter, including all the signatories, can be read here.

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