International press freedom organisations have echoed calls by Maltese journalists, editors and activists urging the government to publish a report prepared by the government-appointed Media Experts Committee “without further delay” and make good on promises to strengthen the sector.
“It is of concern that despite having received the Committee’s report on 24 July 2023, the government has so far not published it,” they said, urging the government to launch a broad consultation process before introducing any legislation.
Following the conclusions and recommendations of the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry in July 2021, Prime Minister Robert 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.
The organisations, led by Article 19 Europe, said it is “essential that the Committee’s report is published without further delay, and that any proposed legislation is given adequate time for scrutiny and review to ensure it is in line with international standards.”
Aside from Article 19, other signatories include the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and the European Federation of Journalists, representing more than 320,000 journalists in over 43 countries.
#Malta🇲🇹: Ironically, a report on #pressfreedom & #right2information is kept secret. @MaltaGov must immediately publish the report of the body advising it on implementation of reforms proposed after the assassination of journalist #DaphneCaruanaGalizia.👇https://t.co/LA1tQyJnZv pic.twitter.com/Rb5ute9krr
— RSF (@RSF_inter) September 14, 2023
The letter also levied criticism at the Maltese government, stating the environment for journalists remains “difficult”.
“Journalists continue to face threats of abusive procedures, serious challenges in accessing information held by public authorities, are the targets of negative rhetoric uttered by persons holding public office, and other actions that reduce public trust in independent journalism,” it continues.
On Wednesday, The Shift reported how over 130 journalists, editors and activists signed a petition calling on the prime minister to publish the report by the government committee.
The report is the second made by the committee, with Abela last year breaching his own terms of reference by refusing to publish an initial report, delaying it until September 2022, despite its completion the previous April.
Following the publication of the first report, severe backlash to the proposed ready-made reforms prompted a halt to the legislative process and an extension of the committee’s mandate for further consultation and the preparation of a second report.