Malta’s score in Reporters Sans Frontieres press freedom index falls

Despite moving up three places, Malta’s score has decreased by seven points • Study says journalists in Malta have to cope with a ‘highly polarised environment under strong political influence’

File photo
File photo

Malta has moved up three places in the World Press Freedom Index, ranking 78 out of 180 countries, in a study conducted by Reporters Without Borders.

However, while Malta has increased its ranking, the island’s score has decreased from 69.5 in 2021 to 61.55 in 2022. 

According to the study published on Tuesday, journalists in Malta have ”to cope with a highly polarised environment under the strong influence of political parties.”

The study referenced the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia which listed a set of reforms that “the government has been reluctant to implement.”

Furthermore, on safety, the study observed that none of the suspects arrested for Caruana Galizia have been tried and convicted despite the public inquiry recognising that the “the state has to shoulder responsibility for the assassination because it created an atmosphere of impunity.”

“The recommendations resulting from the inquiry are being implemented too slowly. Law enforcement institutions lack resources to effectively protect journalists who continue to face threats with impunity,” the study said.

The study noted that while the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, the legal and framework is not “conducive to journalists exercising their rights.”

“Independent media are discriminated against in access to information, and journalists are targets of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation,” the report said.

The report said that the ruling Labour Party wielded strong influence over the public broadcaster and “uses public advertising to exert pressure on private media”. Many politicians select specific journalists for exclusive interviews, while those considered “hostile” are ignored, including within the party media, the report said.

It also pointed out that the government required an “access card” for journalists to be able to cover government events or attend press conferences.

In an economic context, the report said that while it was relatively easy to launch a media outlet, the small market offered limited sources of funding for independent media whose “sustainability is undermined by non-transparent and discriminatory distribution of public funds.”   

The report also noted that Maltese society suffered from “deep polarisation” and that journalists who wrote about specific topics, including migration and abortion, received abuse.

“Very few journalists from minority groups work for the mainstream media. Investigative reporting is carried out by a handful of journalists, almost exclusively men,” the study said.