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“A free and unhindered press is the only way we can have a functioning democracy…but there is still work to be done” – IĠM on World Press Freedom Day 2020

Today is World Press Freedom Day and the Institute of Maltese Journalists (IĠM) is joining international press associations and civil society groups in reminding the public of how essential the free press is to the maintaining the freedoms we all take for granted.

Last year, IĠM stated that “a free and unhindered press is the only way we can have a functioning democracy,” – a principle that we abide it as it is the only way we can make informed decisions about the society we would like to live in. However, the is still work to be done.

During the current pandemic, many applauded the frontliners, amongst which journalists, from their balconies. A noble gesture. However, Maltese journalists are being harassed on a daily basis. While skimming through comments posted on social media as a reaction to the daily medical bulletin by the health authorities, or beneath news articles or opinion pieces related to the latest migration saga, one may easily notice vile threats and bullying! This is not and will never be tolerable. We can never accept any type of blatant hatred towards people who work tirelessly to provide the public with factually correct information, having to compete with a wave of misinformation that litters most social media platforms. We call on the authorities, including politicians, to understand and most importantly pronounce themselves against any type of anti-media rhethoric. Citizens can only form informed opinions if they have clear answers to pertinent questions, and information based on factual truth.

We refer to Friday’s remarks by Prime Minister Robert Abela during a press conference, where he stated that he would “appreciate” if journalists would only ask on the subject of the press conference and not delve into issues related to the migration crisis that Malta is currently facing. Prime Minister, this is not on. While you might have uttered all information that could be communicated at the time on such a subject, journalists’ questions can never be restricted to a particular subject that the authority deems fit. This, on the contrary, simply fuels more hatred towards what constitutes the fourth pillar in a democracy.

IĠM notes the Opposition leader’s initiative to start having televised weekly interviews with questions being fielded by journalists from the independent media. This is a step in the right direction towards more transparancy. IĠM not only invites the Prime Minister to follow suit, but proposes that a weekly Press Conference is organised for the sole purpose to let journalists representing all media houses to field questions. This can contribute much better towards press freedom in Malta, rather than being cusioned while transmitting messages as done by the two political leaders during the past months.

COVID-19 has brought a lot of restrictions, not only on the general public, but also on journalistic practice. Thankfully, technological advancements made it possible to virturally report and also ask questions. Yet, journalists are eager to get back to the traditional formats of press conferences, having the chance to ask follow up questions and interview the relevant persons.

IĠM regrets that Malta kept stooping lower in the World Press Freedom Index issued by Reporters Without Borders. Malta is now 31 places lower than it was in 2016. We reiterate that “no society can be truly, free and democratic, if it is not well-informed, and in this respect, this latest drop is worrying as much as it is disappointing.” IĠM agrees that weaknesses in the rule of law ultimately hinders journalism and that much more needs to be done to allow journalists access to important information. The Council of Europe’s platform for media freedom and safety of journalists’ annual report issued this week, labelling Malta as a “country of exceptional concern,” is even more worrying.

As we have seen from the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, the failure of authorities  to act on reports of corruption – in addition to allowing bad actors to act with impunity – leaves journalists alone and at risk.

On this day, IĠM remembers Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed over a two years and a half ago, by someone who wanted to deprive the public of information. While during the past months we have witnessed significant developments, we are still waiting for justice to be served.

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Malta tinżel erba’ postijiet fl-Indiċi Dinji tal-Libertà tal-Istampa

“Ebda soċjetà ma tista’ tkun verament libera u demokratika jekk ma tkunx infumata tajjeb u f’dan ir-rigward din il-waqa’ tiddiżappunta u hi ta’ nkwiet” – IĠM

22 ta’ April 2020

L-Istitut tal-Ġurnalisti Maltin jinnota b’dispjaċir li Malta, għal darb’oħra waqgħet lura fl-Indiċi Dinji tal-Libertà tal-Istampa kumpilat mill-Ġurnalisti Bla Fruntieri. Issa pajiżna jinsab 31 post aktar l-isfel milli kienet fl-2016. L-ebda soċjetà ma tista’ tkun verament libera u demokratika jekk ma tkunx infumata tajjeb u f’dan ir-rigward din il-waqa’ tiddiżappunta u hi ta’ nkwiet.

L-IĠM jemmen li fl-aħħar mill-aħħar, Saltna tad-Dritt dgħajfa tfixkel il-ġurnaliżmu u li hemm bżonn isir ferm aktar biex il-ġurnalisti jkollhom aċċess għal informazzjoni importanti.

Kif rajna mill-inkjesta dwar il-qrtil tal-ġurnalista Daphne Caruana Galizia, in-nuqqas tal-awtoritajiet li jieħdu azzjoni fuq rapporti ta’ korruzzjoni u li tħalli lil min jagħmel ħażin jaġixxi b’impunità, iħalli lill-ġurnalisti weħidhom u f’riskju. Li tirredikola u tipprova tiskredita lill-ġurnalisti, iwassal għal sitwazzjoni aktar perikoluża.

Filwaqt li l-media lokali qed tiffaċċja numru ta’ sfidi, inkluż dawk finanzjarji u dak tal-influwenza politika jew tan-negozjanti, l-IĠM ma jaqbilx li l-maġġoranza tal-media houses lokali għandhom interessi politiċi. Kulħadd jaf li l-partiti politiċi f’Malta għandhom il-media tagħhom u dan, filwaqt li jpoġġi sfidi fih innifsu, ma jnaqqas xejn mill-ħidma li jagħmlu l-ġurnalisti u l-media indipendenti.

F’dawn l-aħħar snin, partikolarment l-assisinju tal-ġurnalista Daphne Caruana Galizia, ra l-ġurnaliżmu f’Malta u lill-pajjiż kollu, jgħaddu mill-aktar żminijiet mudlama. Madankollu dan ġieb ħafna mill-aħjar xogħol ġurnalistiku importanti.

Meta l-Indiċi tal-Liberta’ tal-Istampa jitkellem dwar Malta, isemmi l-protesti li saru f’Diċembru li għadda li raw in-nies jinżlu fit-toroq u wasslu għar-riżenja qabel iż-żmien tal-Prim Ministru. Kienet il-media indipendenti li wasslet din l-informazzjoni. L-appoġġ li l-media indipendenti kollha tat lill-moviment ta’ protesta, kien wieħed bla precedent u wera li minkejja l-isfidi, il-prinċipji ta’ stampa ħielsa u indipendenti għandhom ħajjin f’dan il-pajjiż.

L-Istitut tal-Ġurnalisti Maltin jittama li jaħdem mal-Gvern u mal-partiti politiċi biex ikunu ndirizzati numru ta’ problem, li jissemmew f’dan ir-rapport, fosthom il-problema ta’ kliem ta’ mibegħda ndirizzat lejn il-ġurnalisti. 

Filwaqt li hu minnu li l-media soċjali qed issir inqas tolleranti u aktar aggressiva, in-natura tal-professjoni ġurnalistika, tesponi lill-ġurnalisti aktar minn persuni ordinarji.

Hemm bżonn isir sforz mis-setturi kollha tas-soċjetà biex ikun ikkundannat dan id-diskors imma l-partiti politiċi għandhom responsabbiltà akbar, speċjalment meta’ ċertu diskors jiġi mill-partiti nfushom. Il-politiċi Maltin għandhom jikkundannaw din l-imġieba u jekk jonqsu li jagħmlu dan ifisser li jkunu qed jinkoraġġuha.

L-Indiċi Dinji tal-Liberta’ tal-Istampa jinnota li “s-snin li ġejjin se jkunu deċisivi għall-futur tal-ġurnaliżmu, bil-pandemija tal-COVIC-19, tikxef il-ħafna kriżijiet li jheddu d-dritt ta’ rappurtaġġ ħieles, indipendenti ibbażat fuq informazzjoni ta’ min jorbot fuqha.”

Hemm ħames oqsma li rridu niffaċċjaw fl-10 snin li ġejjin: ġeopolitiċi, teknoloġiċi, demokratiċi, ta’ fiduċja u ekomiċi.

L-Istitut tal-Ġurnalisti Maltin filwaqt li jinnota li l-Gvern irreaġixxa mill-ewwel għas-sejħa tiegħu, biex tittieħed azzjoni mmedjata biex ikun imħares is-settur ġurnalistiku waqt il-pandemija tal-Covid-19, isostni li hemm bżonn aktar ċarezza dwar l-impenn tal-Gvern li jgħin lill-kmamar tal-aħbarijiet lokali.

L-IĠM isostni li ma jistax ikun hemm demokrazija taħdem mingħajr stampa ħielsa u bla tfixkil. Hemm bżonn impenn qawwi minn kulħadd, inkluż l-awtoritajiet, biex in-niżla li qbadna fl-Indiċi Mondjali tal-Liberta’ tal-Istampa, tieqaf u pajjiżna jerġa’ jibda tiela.

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Malta falls another 4 places in the World Press Freedom Index

“No society can be truly, free and democratic, if it is not well-informed, and in this respect, this latest drop is worrying as much as it is disappointing.” – IĠM

22nd April 2020

The Institute of Maltese Journalists (IĠM) regrets that Malta has yet again fallen in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index. Malta is now 31 places lower than it was in 2016.

No society can be truly, free and democratic, if it is not well-informed, and in this respect, this latest drop is worrying as much as it is disappointing.

IĠM agrees that weaknesses in the rule of law ultimately hinders journalism and that much more needs to be done to allow journalists access to important information. 

As we have seen from the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, the failure of authorities  to act on reports of corruption – in addition to allowing bad actors to act with impunity – leaves journalists alone and at risk. Ridiculing and attempting to discredit journalists, results in an all the more dangerous situation.

While there are a number of challenges facing the local media, including relating to its financing and influence by political or business sources, IĠM disagrees with the implication that the majority of Maltese media houses are beholden to political interests. That Malta’s political parties’ own media organisations is known to all in Malta, as is the nature of the content that they produce, and while it does pose its own challenges, it takes nothing away from the work done by the country’s independent media houses.

The last few years, specifically the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, have seen Maltese journalism and indeed the country, pass through some of its darkest days. They have also, however, seen some of the best and most important journalistic work ever.

In its entry on Malta that accompanies this year’s index, RSF points to the events of last December, which saw protestors take to the streets and ultimately force the country’s Prime Minister out of office. The country’s independent media were the only reason the information ultimately came to light. The public support given to the protest movement by all of Malta’s independent media houses was also unprecedented and showed that despite, the challenges, the principles of a free and independent press are alive and well in the country. 

Going forward IĠM hopes to work closely with the government and Malta’s political parties to address a number of the issues raised in the latest press freedom index, including the problem of hate speech towards journalists.

While it is true that discourse online is becoming less tolerant and more aggressive, the nature of the journalistic profession means journalists are exposed to it more than the average person. 

An effort is required across all segments of society, but there is also a responsibility on the part of political parties to condemn such speech, especially when it comes from within the party itself. Malta’s politicians must condemn this sort of behaviour as a failure to do so is indicative of their tacit consent.

The World Press Freedom Index notes that “the coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism, with the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting and amplifying the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information”. RSF reflect on five areas of crisis ought to be faced during the next ten years: geopolitical, technological, democratic, trust and economic. While noting that the Government reacted to its calls for immediate action on safeguarding the journalistic sector during this pandemic, IĠM reiterates its appeal for more clarity on the government’s commitment to help the local newsrooms.

IĠM stresses that there cannot be a functioning democracy without a free and unhindered press. A commitment, including by the relevant authorities, to reverse this downward trend in the World Press Freedom Index during the coming year is a must.

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The first ever Press Freedom Police Codex launched in Brussels

5th December 2019

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) launched its Press Freedom Police Codex on 4 December in Brussels. The Codex formulates in eight clauses how the police and journalists can work amicably together. The clauses are based on research into areas of conflict between the two professions from all over Europe. It addresses issues of police violence, surveillance, accreditation, protection of sources and confiscation of journalistic materials. With the launch of the  Codex, ECPMF aims to provide guidelines, establish and continue a dialogue between journalists and the police, to help the two professions work together more smoothly.

The Belgian representative of the European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP), Peter Smets, commented on the Codex adding this: “Due to the increase of violence in our society, journalists and police officers face the same challenges. This is a wake-up call for better communication. At the end of the day, we all want to come home safely.”

The Codex is a joint effort by ECPMF and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Index on Censorship, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT), Ossigeno per l’informazione (O2), and South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO). Together, they have pooled their research and experiences to produce eight guiding clauses that can inform the work of police and journalists. The points are as follows:

  1. Any violence by police staff against journalists is unacceptable;
  2. Journalists have the right to gather information and police should protect them from any illegal interference, especially at demonstrations;
  3. Journalists should have the right to identify individual police staff and to document and report on the work of the police forces;
  4. Police are not allowed to erase footage, nor to confiscate journalists’ equipment without a proper warrant;
  5. Journalists should not be criminalised, discriminated against nor blacklisted for their assumed political attitude;
  6. Journalists should not be targeted by police surveillance;
  7. If police harm, threaten or harass journalists, these actions must be condemned, investigated and made public by independent investigators;
  8. Police should be trained and regularly updated on journalists’ rights.

While ECPMF acknowledges that the relationship between journalists and the police is difficult, it is important to build a dialogue to encourage mutual respect, the upholding of human rights to nurture an environment in which press and media freedom can thrive.

“Everywhere you look you find the same problem: in the turmoil of protests, journalists are hindered in their work. Sometimes they are even attacked. The Press Freedom Police Codex is designed to give police and media professionals a clear set of guidelines on how to safeguard press and media freedom,” said ECPMF’s Managing Director, Lutz Kinkel. “We hope the clarity and practical usefulness of the Codex will help to minimise inappropriate clashes between police and journalists.”

EFJ Director Renate Schroeder said: ”The public, including the media and in particular journalists needs to have confidence in its police. This is only possible when there is an open and collaborative relationship between the police and the media.  Dialogue and training between both groups about its respective role is ever more urgent. Therefore we welcome the code and we welcome the dialogue with the police, and in particular with the police union, Euro-Cop.”

Click the link below to view the document:

Click to access police_codex_mail.pdf