The following is a statement issued by media freedom NGOs today after the government announced a “committee of experts” to recommend improvements to media freedom in Malta.
Our organisations note Prime Minister Abela’s announcement that a Committee of Experts has been appointed to implement the recommendations of the Public Inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The Public Inquiry recommendations include the recognition in law of journalism as the fourth pillar of democracy, and the need to create an enabling environment for independent journalism and measures to address impunity, corruption and the abuse of power.
In our meetings and communications with Prime Minister Abela, our organisations emphasised the need for the full independence of the Commission of Experts to ensure that the terms of reference of the Commission meet international standards and that the composition of the Commission reflects the expertise of the press and the role it plays in a democracy: knowledge and experience needed to effectively undertake the full scope of responsibilities. We have been concerned by a lack of transparent consultation with civil society and key stakeholders in this process to date. We urge the Prime Minister to engage in meaningful and transparent consultation going forward, in particular through publishing proposed legislation relating to media freedom.
In our meeting in Valletta in October 2021 concerning the implementation of the Public Inquiry recommendations, we sought assurances from Prime Minister Abela to not amplify a policy of media regulation, to ensure the passage of comprehensive legislation tackling Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPPs), to improve access to information, to engage in continuous transparent consultation and dialogue with civil society and journalists’ organisations and contribute to changing the culture of how journalists are treated in Malta – including ensuring better protections for journalists to be able to do their jobs safely. We now expect the process led by the Committee of Experts to fulfil these assurances.
Our organisations will closely monitor the work, process and outcomes of the Committee of Experts, which should be undertaken free of government influence and in the framework of Malta’s international human rights obligations, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights, the recommendations of the Council of Europe, in particular its Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4 on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors, and the European Commission’s Recommendation on the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists.
While our offer of technical assistance to the Prime Minister has to date not been taken up, we continue to stand ready to assist the process.
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Index on Censorship
International Press Institute (IPI)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)