European Union Member States, including Malta, must move quickly to implement the European Commission’s two-year-old recommendation on improving the safety of journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), who called Malta’s promises “vague”.
In September 2021, the European Commission issued a recommendation on the safety of journalists following the assassination of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Jan Kuciak in Slovakia, Giorgos Karaivaz in Greece, and Peter R. de Vries in the Netherlands.
But when RSF contacted the governments of Malta and Poland, who were also called out for the deteriorating conditions in the media sector, they just “offered vague promises.”
“Two years later, it is clear that specific new measures to protect media personnel are still all too rare in the four priority areas analysed by RSF: progress in investigations into crimes of violence against journalists; cooperation between authorities and the media community; support services for journalists; and measures to ensure their safety while covering protests,” RSF said in a statement on Monday.
“While we welcome the new commitments of some governments, there is nothing to celebrate on the second anniversary of the EU recommendation on the safety of journalists. We regret that the national authorities have learned few lessons from the murders of four European journalists and the multiple threats weighing on media professionals. We call on governments to speed up implementation of the 2021 recommendation,” RSF’s Pavol Szalai said.
The organisation carried out an analysis of the implementation of the recommendation in 10 Member States, including Malta.
When contacted by RSF and asked about progress, a Cabinet spokesperson said, “applied and is applying the measures enlisted by the European Commission” and that it is “determined to adopt legal changes.”
However, RSF notes the Maltese government is refusing to publish the report on press freedom reform, drafted by an advisory body following the recommendations of the public inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s murder.
Calls for transparency intensify
Europe’s leading media freedom organisations recently stepped up calls for Prime Minister Robert Abela to publish the report’s results without further delay.
Following Caruana Galizia’s murder and the inquiry results, Abela set up the Media Experts Committee to develop a report to form the basis of legislation on improving the conditions for journalists in Malta. But more than two years later, not only have hardly any of the original inquiry recommendations been implemented, but the expert’s final report remains secret.
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.
Malta fails, across the board
Reporters Without Borders has called on Malta and the other States to commit to four recommendations. They include conducting independent, effective and transparent investigations into crimes of violence against journalists.
The statement notes that Malta has a “low” level of respect for this principle, along with Greece, where the murder of Karaivaz is also unsolved.
The second recommendation is for governments to create or support mechanisms to cooperate with journalists to improve their safety. However, RSF found that “cooperation between authorities and journalists is non-existent in Malta.”
As for the third recommendation, to launch or support dedicated assistance services for threatened journalists, Malta “does not have any dedicated system and, at the national level, can only appeal to human rights organisations.”
Last but not least, the recommendation to take measures to protect journalists while they are covering protests has also not been addressed by the Maltese government.
“To RSF’s knowledge, no training or risk-reduction strategy has been implemented in Bulgaria, Greece, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Spain,” the organisation noted.