We are gathered here this evening to celebrate the best work in various field of journalism during the past year. However, I believe that what has taken place outside our shores, in a neighbouring country, Greece, where state broadcasting was literally switched off and 2,600 media workers lost their jobs in this profitable company, is unacceptable.
The Institute of Maltese Journalists (IĠM) believes this is a threat to democracy and condemns this behaviour while showing full solidarity with the journalists, cameramen and technical people who are now looking for a new job. It is worth adding that, according to statistics published by the European Union to mark World Press Freedom Day last month, no fewer than 12,353 lost their jobs within the European Union in the five years of the financial crisis between 2008 and 2012. Add to this figure those of Greece and a few hundred others who also lost their jobs or left their employers in other EU countries in the first six months of the year.
All this is a clear indication that the journalism profession is under threat more than ever before. And not only in Europe.
In the past few weeks we have followed how senior Department of Justice officials in America have obtained e-mail records of a TV reporter, apart from telephone records linked to the same case. In practice governments look on journalists who do their duty and inform their audiences in a correct and professional manner as a threat. This is why journalists around the world should always be prepared to reveal the truth as they see it and play their part so that their audiences are informed and educated on current affairs which they believe are in their interest to know.
According to the same EU statistics, no fewer than 88 members of the media lost their lives in 2012. To these are added 879 journalists who were arrested, 1,993 who were threatened or physically attacked, 38 who were kidnapped and 144 bloggers and netizens who were arrested. There is no doubt that the work of those who work in the media to safeguard democracy is highly dangerous and the situation is deteriorating.
As I mentioned in my message in the programme, this time of the year is important to the IĠM because it is close to World Press Freedom Day. This is why we hold the Awards in May each year. This year, due to the elections, we delayed them by a few weeks to give members time to put the material for their submissions together.
The Award are part of the IĠM’s work to raise the level of professionalism in the local media. It is worth recalling that in another field, the Institute is working with the Tumas Fenech Foundation for Education in Journalism to raise the level of knowledge among those who work in the media and those who come in contact with the media. Thirdly, the IĠM works through the Press Ethics Commission (PEC) to increase awareness of the Code of Journalistic Ethics.
I wish to point out that, as I said at the announcement of the MJA finalists, that later this year the IĠM is organising a national conference to seek agreement between all the stakeholders on a common code of ethics for all the media in the country. I understand that the President of Malta is taking a personal interest in this initiative and I intend to discuss this initiative in the coming weeks with the Prime Minister, the highest authorities in the country and all those who wish to make a contribution in this area.
To turn to this evening’s event, as we announced earlier there were 59 submissions of which 42 were chosen by the jury as finalists in the 16 categories. I welcome the three new sponsors: GO plc in the Print Journalism – Features category, Turkish Airlines in the Travel Journalism category and the Kunsill Malti għall-Isport for the Print Journalist Sports category.
Once again, my heartfelt thanks to:
- The jury – for their huge undertaking. I know from personal experience even this year and in previous years when I was asked to be a member of juries judging journalism competitions how much commitment is involved – all this to raise the standards of journalism in the country;
- A big thank-you to the sponsors, both those who support the Institute in these Awards year after year – you can see their names listed on the magnificent backdrop behind me – along with those who have started making their contribution, which is also appreciated, from this year. Special thanks go to the other sponsors who have been committing their assistance and support for many, many years to enable the IĠM to organise these Awards. This not only shows an interest in Maltese journalism but also shows a valued appreciation of the media contribution to the country through the print media, radio and television, and the electronic media; and
- Thank-you to all those who have worked so that once again we have been able to keep this annual appointment: the members of my Council, the organiser Roderick Agius and his team, assisted by the hard-working IĠM Secretary General, Joe Vella.
I congratulate the finalists who have reached this far. This is already an honour because you have reached an excellent standard and for this you are due all credit. Not everyone can be a winner and often just a handful of points separate the one who is placed first and those who follow. I urge you to continue to produce quality work, to continue to raise the standards of your journalistic work and in this way we will always have a service of high standard that is at par with the best in the world.
I wish to close with an appeal to the members of the media to constantly seek balance in your stories. I know many of you who always seek to ensure that the other side is heard and also give the necessary background to the story; I also know those who are fair in their editing and give an accurate account of the message in a highly ethical manner. I urge you to continue to do this and express the hope that you will be allowed to do this high quality work not only to be able to submit it for the Awards but so that the standards of journalism in the country will continue to progress in the right direction.