HomeWorldMalta moves up RSF World Press Freedom Index despite political polarisation

Malta moves up RSF World Press Freedom Index despite political polarisation

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Malta climbed 11 positions in the global press freedom index as charted by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), with a slight improvement over its 2023 score.

The RSF World Press Freedom Index found political authorities as the main threat to journalism, where out of five indicators used to compile the ranking, it is the political indicator that has fallen most, registering a global average fall of 7.6 points.

The countries where press freedom is “good” are all in Europe, and more specifically within the European Union, which has adopted its first media freedom law (EMFA).

Ireland dropped out of the Index’s top three countries, replaced by Sweden, while Germany is now one of the top ten countries.

“Press freedom is nonetheless being put to the test in Hungary, Malta and Greece, the three lowest-ranked EU countries,” RSF said.

“In Malta, journalists face a highly polarised environment that is heavily influenced by political parties. In 2021, the conclusions of a public inquiry into investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder listed an exhaustive list of reforms that the government has been reluctant to implement.”

RSF pointed out that Malta’s ruling party wields a strong influence over the public broadcaster and uses state advertising to exert pressure on privately owned media. “Many politicians select certain journalists for exclusive interviews, while those considered ‘hostile’ are sidelined and targeted for attacks. Journalists must have a government-issued ‘access card’ to cover government events or attend press conferences.”

RSF said that on “almost every issue of public interest, Maltese society suffers from deep polarisation.”

“Coverage of topics such as migration or abortion remains unpopular and incites abuse against journalists covering these topics. Very few journalists from minority groups work for the mainstream media.”

Justice still has not been fully served for the 2017 murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, when in 2022 two hitmen pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Mastermind Yorgen Fenech, and others responsible for the crime, have yet to be convicted. “Although the public inquiry recognised that ‘the state must take responsibility for the assassination because it created an atmosphere of impunity’, the resulting recommendations have not been implemented,” RSF said.

Other European countries

Further east in Europe, the conditions for practising journalism are deteriorating due to the scale of disinformation and censorship of media outlets falsely accused of undermining national security or terrorism.

This is the case in Russia (162nd), Belarus (167th) and Turkmenistan (175th), while in Georgia (down 26 to 103rd), the ruling party is cultivating a rapprochement with Moscow. As a result of improvements in its security indicator – fewer journalists killed – and its political indicator, Ukraine (61st) has moved up 18 places.

“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 NGO said.

“States and other political forces are playing a decreasing role in protecting press freedom. This disempowerment sometimes goes hand in hand with more hostile actions that undermine the role of journalists, or even instrumentalise the media through campaigns of harassment or disinformation.”

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