Press freedom watchdog raises concerns over local disinformation campaign

European Media Freedom Rapid Response offers message of solidarity to the journalists and activists affected

After a week-long disinformation campaign targetting Maltese media houses, the Europe-wide Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) has expressed serious concern over the attempts to discredit journalists and bloggers.

In a statement signed by four media partners - Article 19, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPF), International Press Institute (IPI), OBC Transeuropa (OBCT) - the organisations highlight a smear campaign against blogger Manuel Delia and the several fake platforms used to impersonate local media portals.

The MFRR's statement concludes with a message of solidarity with the journalists and activists targeted by the campaign, adding that the State must swiftly investigate and prosecute any criminal acts committed.

"Furthermore, we call on the Maltese authorities to take decisive action towards the implementation of the public inquiry's recommendations concerning the protection of journalists, including those stemming from its identification of the State's failure to protect reports and media workers before attacks escalate to physical violence."

Civil society and media organisations will be holding a solidarity demonstration in Valletta on Tuesday night as a show of force against the disinformation campaign. 

So far, spoof versions have surfaced trying to impersonate Newsbook, Net News, Lovin Malta, Strada Rjali and One News. Before the spoof websites appeared, fake email threads were being circulated across media houses impersonating Manuel Delia, Jason Azzopardi and Bernard Grech.

Delia is a former Nationalist Party candidate, while Jason Azzopardi is Nationalist Party MP. Grech is the Opposition and Nationalist Party leader.