Photo: REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

In the last five years free expression in Malta has deteriorated by 13% relegating Malta from an “open” country for freedom of speech to a “less restricted” country.

Article 19’s Global Expression Report measures the state of freedom of expression around the world. The report found that since 2014 Malta dropped 11 points on the free expression score, a reduction of 13%.

Malta now ranks 46th worldwide with a score of 74 points, the same result obtained by the Dominican Republic, Botswana and El Salvador. Tunisia now has a better free expression ranking than Malta.

Four countries in central Europe are the only EU member states with a lower ranking than Malta. Bulgaria and Romania’s free speech ranking is similar to Malta’s (70, 71) and Poland lags slightly behind (65). Free speech in Hungary is classified as “restricted” with a score of 53.

Article 19’s report recalls that more than a year after the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution on 26 June 2019 condemning the continued impunity and broader systemic rule of law shortcomings in Malta and calling for the establishment of a public inquiry within three months.

“Finally, after two years of advocacy by the Caruana Galizia family and advocacy groups including Article 19, the government announced a public inquiry. The report does not record the fact that Prime Minister Robert Abela has imposed a 15 December 2020 deadline on the inquiry. The report does however note persistent “concerns about political interference and witness tampering in the criminal case.”

“The inquiry and investigations eventually led to arrests and resignations: Prime Minister Joseph Muscat himself stepped down in January 2020,” the Article 19 report says.