The Malta Independent 27 May 2024, Monday
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Malta remains second worst in EU for press freedom – new report

Albert Galea Friday, 3 May 2024, 07:25 Last update: about 24 days ago

Malta remains the second worst country in the European Union when it comes to press freedom, according to the latest World Press Freedom Index which is being published by Reporters Without Borders today.

Malta registered a ranking of 73rd place globally, and the only EU country to register a worse ranking is Greece (88th) ranks worse as an EU country.  Hungary, frequently criticised for its record when it comes to media freedom ranks just above above Malta in 67th place.

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Malta did improve by 11 places when compared to the World Press Freedom Index published in 2023, but an official from Reporters Without Borders attributed this to other countries getting worse rather than Malta getting better.

“Malta remains second to the last in the European Union. Given the insignificant improvement of its score, the island’s progress by 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index can be attributed mainly to the deterioration of the situation in other countries,” Pavol Szalai, who is the Head of the EU-Balkans Desk for Reporters Without Borders, said in comments on Malta’s score.

“The recommendations resulting from the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia have not been implemented, while full justice has still not been served in this key case for the fight against impunity in Europe,” Szalai added.  

“The ruling majority has addressed neither the issues related to independence and sustainability of the media, nor to access to information and protection against SLAPPs. The media landscape continues to be deeply polarised. However, the recently adopted European Media Freedom Act brings hope for improvement even in Malta,” he concluded.

The top 10 spots in the world for press freedom are exclusively occupied by European countries, according to the report, with Norway, Denmark and Sweden occupying first, second, and third sport respectively.

They are followed by the Netherlands, Finland, Estonia, Portugal, Ireland, Switzerland, and Germany respectively.

Canada ranked 14th, the United Kingdom ranked 23rd, South Africa ranked 38th, Australia ranked 39th, Italy ranked 46th, and the United States ranked 55th.

At the other end of the spectrum, the lowest ranked countries as Eritrea, Syria, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Iran.  Russia ranks 162nd, and Azerbaijan ranks in 164th, but it is Belarus which is just the lowest ranked European country at 167th, just above Cuba and just below Saudi Arabia.

In its statement on the report as a whole, Reporters Without Borders said that “press freedom around the world is being threatened by the very people who should be its guarantors – political authorities.”

“A growing number of governments and political authorities are not fulfilling their role as guarantors of the best possible environment for journalism and for the public's right to reliable, independent, and diverse news and information. RSF sees a worrying decline in support and respect for media autonomy and an increase in pressure from the state or other political actors,” the organisation said.

Reporters Without Borders also noted that the use of AI for disinformation, particularly when it comes to elections is particularly disturbing.

“In the absence of regulation, generative AI’s use in the arsenal of disinformation for political purposes is disturbing. Deepfakes now occupy a leading position in influencing the course of elections. This was evidenced by the audio deepfake of the journalist Monika Todova during the parliamentary elections in Slovakia, one of the first documented cases of this kind of attack on a journalist with the aim of influencing the outcome of a democratic election,” the organisation said.

“Very strong pressure on journalists must be expected in the coming elections in all of the world’s regions,” the organisation warned.

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