The Malta Independent 26 June 2019, Wednesday

PN MEP candidates stress importance of investigative and quality journalism in Malta

Kevin Schembri Orland Wednesday, 22 May 2019, 11:52 Last update: about 2 months ago

PN MEP Francis Zammit Dimech, and MEP candidates Roselyn Borg Knight and Dione Borg highlighted the importance on investigative journalism, and freedom of information, in a press conference today.

Zammit Dimech said that investigative journalists provide the people with information on topics the public needs to know about, also adding that journalists should be given the same level of protection as is being spoken about for whistleblowers at EU level.

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He said that fake news destabilises democracy and spoke of the need to combat it. “Democracy is based on making decisions, and the need for the correct information to be processed.” How can one combat fake news, he asked. One of the proposals backed by the EPP he said, is that there be a system of fact checkers. These will be autonomous independent mechanisms that can promote a system where one can verify facts, he explained. Another method, he said, was to further invest in quality journalism.

“More than ever before, due to pressures from social media, we must protect quality journalism that is investigative, provides elements of analysis and respects the value of the truth.” These, he said, are the crucial components for a society, for the people to have access to the information it wants.  The right to expression is also the right for the public to receive information, he said.

PN MEP candidate Roselyn Borg Knight highlighted how recently on Facebook, there were fake news posts taking people to fraudulent websites. The fight against fake news is important, she said.

She also said that the authorities must create a media friendly environment, providing effective  access to information. “We need competent authorities to develop what is needed for journalists to work as they are meant to.

Speaking of the freedom of information act, she described it as important, but said that half of requests by journalists were denied. She stressed the need for this law to be applied as it is meant to be, so that journalists have access on order to inform citizens about what is going on.

She expressed concern that since half requests denied it is making a mockery of the respect the government is meant to have for journalists. “Hiding from journalists is hiding from the people.”  People have a right to be informed on what they need to know in order to read, understand and form their own decisions.

MEP candidate Dione Borg said that a society without free media would face problems. “We believe in the right of every journalist to have the necessary information to conduct all the investigations they believe necessary. Over the past years journalism has been facing challenges of sustainability, and the number of people looking at journalism as a professional career has reduced. This will affect society as society needs professional journalists. It is not an easy career, and can be very challenging.”

“The time has come not to let certain elements of journalism end,” he said, referring to newspaper journalism, highlighting its importance for research, aside from being a valuable form of journalism. He said that the time has come to support newspaper journalism."

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