“Malta must do better to guarantee media freedom”

International press freedom organizations said in a statement today that their offer of technical assistance in implementing the findings of the public inquiry was not accepted by Prime Minister Robert Abela , despite his claim to have carried out wide and meaningful consultation before appointing a committee to oversee press freedom reforms.

“We are concerned about the 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 in the future, including by releasing a media freedom bill,” nine international organizations said in a statement reacting to the government’s announcement of the people. appointed to the committee.

On Tuesday, the government announced the people chosen to serve on the committee tasked with implementing press freedom reforms following recommendations from the findings of the public inquiry into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The government’s decision follows a detailed bill presented by the opposition to follow up on the recommendations of the public inquiry. Since the publication of the public inquiry in July 2021, the only decision taken by the government so far has been to appoint the committee and this has sparked controversy despite the Prime Minister‘s claims of consensus.

International organizations that have reacted to the government’s announcement include the American Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Press Institute (IPI), the European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF ), the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the largest union of journalists – the European Federation of Journalists.

They say their offer of support was not accepted by the government. “Although our offer of technical assistance to the Prime Minister has not been accepted to date, we remain ready to accompany the process”.

The government-announced committee includes Savior Balzan, co-owner of Media Today, and the online editor of one of his newspapers, Kurt Sansone. Times of Malta deputy editor Matthew Xuereb, academic Carmen Sammut, The Malta Independent editor Neil Camilleri, criminology professor Savior Formosa and lawyer Kevin Dingli.

“During our meetings and communications with Prime Minister Abela, our organizations underline the need for the full independence of the Commission of Experts to ensure that the mandate of the Commission meets 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 necessary to effectively assume all the responsibilities,” the statement from the international organizations adds.

They stressed the need for the commission to fulfill the obligations resulting from the public inquiry and “to act free from government influence”.

Recommendations from the public inquiry 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 combat impunity, corruption and abuse. to be able to.

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