Malta: Investigative journalists fear for their lives

In October 2017, the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia dealt a devastating blow to the Maltese media. She had made a name for herself exposing political and economic corruption and was also well-known outside the country.

A photograph outside the Courts of Justice building in Valletta comemorating the murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
A photograph outside the Courts of Justice building in Valletta comemorating the murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Three years later it is still not clear who ordered the murder. Around the time of her death, Caruana Galizia had been investigating the involvement of the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his wife in the Panama Papers affair and energy deals with Azerbaijan. In January 2020, the pressure on Muscat in connection with the murder became so great that he resigned.

Nosedive in RSF Press Freedom Index

At the time of Caruana Galizia’s murder no less than 42 defamation lawsuits were pending against her - testimony to how aggressive Malta's politicians and business leaders are towards critical journalists. Many journalists have since complained about the slowness of the investigation, and said that they themselves feel threatened and fear for their lives. Malta has dropped far behind in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index as a result of the Caruana Galizia murder and the lack of progress in solving the case. At the same time, relative to its population Malta has an extraordinarily diverse media landscape, with dozens of daily and weekly newspapers, television channels, radio stations and websites.

Between 1814 and 1964, Malta was under British rule and English is still an official language alongside Maltese. Malta's colonial legacy is also reflected in its media: half of the print media, two daily and five weekly newspapers are published in English. The daily with the largest print run is the English-language Times of Malta, founded in 1935. With around 60,000 readers it is considered a reference newspaper and like its British model The Times charges for some of its online content. The circulations of Malta's print media are without exception in decline, while online media services are rapidly growing. Almost 75 percent of Maltese regularly use the Internet. Malta's social media usage rate per capita is much higher than the EU average.

Each interest group has its outlets

Whereas the English-language publications are commercially oriented, the country's two largest political parties subsidise their own Maltese-language newspapers. Here, media presence rather than economic viability is the name of the game. The institutional influence extends to many media: the ruling Labour Party owns a weekly paper, a television broadcaster and a radio station. The opposition Nationalist Party publishes a daily newspaper. The Church has its own radio station and an online news site, and even the trade union GWU owns a daily newspaper, a weekly and a news website. All this demonstrates the extent to which various interest groups use Malta's media market as a mouthpiece.

World Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Rank 81 (2020)

Last updated: April 2020

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