The Malta Independent 23 May 2024, Thursday
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Situation in Malta is ‘particularly serious’ - European Federation of Journalists’ representative

Wednesday, 15 February 2023, 18:37 Last update: about 2 years ago

The situation in Malta is 'particularly serious', Ricardo Gutiérrez, General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists said during a public consultation meeting organised by the Committee of Experts for media reforms.

A public consultation session was held at the University Campus in Valletta, where people were able to air their concerns about the media reform bills the government had tabled in Parliament prior to a public consultation taking place.

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Gutiérrez was invited to speak via a video link.

"I have visited Malta a lot in the last five years," he said. "Today you are facing a first draft of legal reform of the media sector. My first comment will be on the incredible wait-and-see attitude of the political decision-makers in this country. How is it possible, in a country that has experienced such a tragedy as the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, that it has taken so many years to start drafting a legislative reform with the aim of consolidating press freedom, the working conditions of journalists and the safety of journalists?"

"I have spoken with many journalists in this country. We also had the opportunity to discuss with Prime Minister Abela. I am still totally amazed by the lack of proactivity of the public authorities."

"Journalists are an essential counter-power in a democracy. It seems obvious to me that this government does not really want to strengthen the role of journalists as watchdogs," he said.

He said that the Council of Europe's Platform for the Protection of Journalism has 15 alerts in Malta, including one case of impunity for the murder of a journalist. "The Council of Europe has asked the Maltese authorities for explanations about these 15 cases. The Maltese state has responded to only seven of them. More than half of the serious press freedom violations listed in this country remain unanswered. Why are the authorities so silent?"

He said that the European Commission-funded "Media Pluralism Monitor" considers Malta as one of the worst countries in Europe in terms of media pluralism: "Maltese media are politically dependent; institutional advertising is used to influence the media; public media are not independent... In terms of media pluralism, Malta is at the same level as Turkey, Poland and Hungary. These are the findings of independent academic researchers. What is the government doing to solve this?"

"What I want to tell you is that the situation in Malta is dramatic. And I cannot understand how a government can propose reforms that are not sufficiently far-reaching to deal with the seriousness of the situation. Worse: the proposed measures have not been discussed with the journalists' representative organisation. This is just surreal."

The European standards on media freedom are well known, he said. "There is the directive on SLAPPS and especially the recommendation to the States on SLAPPS, there is the European Commission's recommendation on the safety of journalists. And then, above all, there is the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, and a large set of recommendations issued by the Council of Europe. In a few weeks, the Council of Europe will call on the 46 member states to draw up a national plan for the protection of journalists and to appoint a contact person at national level. The Maltese government will have to take action."

"I just want to tell you that the situation is particularly serious in Malta and that democracy is in danger in Malta. Reluctant, unambitious or out of touch reform measures will not be sufficient. Malta needs a strong and radical media law reform. Journalists, civil society, media and public authorities should join forces to establish a healthy, free and citizen-friendly media ecosystem."

"hank all those who are committed to this goal. I know that there are many of you. I urge you to be ambitious, to be innovative, to not hesitate to denounce the authorities' wait-and-see attitude. I urge you to think of your fellow citizens at all times: the citizens of this country have the right to access quality, free and independent information. And states have a positive obligation to guarantee press freedom and media pluralism."


 

 

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