Heightened ‘risk’ to political independence of media in Malta – report

Growing concern over the political independence of the media in Malta was among the issues highlighted in the annual report of the Center for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF), which also praised the transparency and independence of The Shift in the national media landscape.

Released earlier this week, the annual report details threats to media pluralism and freedom in EU member states and some candidate countries. It concludes that Malta’s political independence is more at risk than last year – falling from 72% to 79% in one year. One of the main factors contributing to this spike is the increase in criticism of the public broadcasting service (PBS).

Other key problem areas related to political independence include politically owned media, concerns about lack of independence in governance, funding and editorial independence of the state broadcaster.

“The conversation about party-owned media must once again be high on the agenda, with clear and realistic goals; Furthermore, it is reiterated that a policy, with a set of clearly defined objectives and a strategy defining concrete objectives, must be proposed for the State Public Media (PSM), in order to restore, safeguard and strengthen their role as a trusted public service.

The “political independence” graph in the report.

This report was released amid reports of PBS’s lack of transparency. On Wednesday, The Shift reported that the government’s silence in parliament on mandatory PBS reporting on taxpayer-funded programs raises questions about the existence of such reports.

Ranking of European countries in the report.

Among European countries, Malta has been classified as “high risk”, along with Montenegro, Romania, Greece, Serbia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Albania. Only Turkey has been classified as “very high risk”.

Report sheds light on media companies’ lack of transparency

Lack of transparent data regarding media companies’ market shares, advertising revenue, as well as lack of information on print media circulation figures and online activity were listed as major contributors to the Malta’s “high risk” score on market plurality.

The report praises The Shift’s policy of withholding advertising from political parties or government, as well as being the only newsroom to publish an account of annual income and expenditure. He also notes The Shift’s commitment to reinvesting all revenue into journalism. Statements by blogger and activist Manuel Delia were also noted.

“It is refreshing, and unusual for Malta, to see that news media organizations like The Shift News and blogger Manuel Delia have transparent procedures and are committed to maintaining their credibility by publishing their earnings…More , The Shift News’ operating company, Tula Ltd., has pledged under its bylaws to reinvest all proceeds into journalism,” the report said.

The report calls for the creation of an independent media authority. “It is essential that media operators and regulators have access to accurate and publicly available data that would inform decisions to be made; As stated in previous reports, the creation of a comprehensive and independent media authority, overseeing all platforms, put in place with the input and participation of all stakeholders, would help improve the Maltese media landscape,” the report states. .

The “market plurality” graph.

Urgent need to process access to information requests in a timely and transparent manner

The report points out that certain issues “clearly need particular attention”, referring specifically to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and the profession’s self-regulation.

“There is an urgent need for cooperation from the government and its agencies to respond to access to information requests in a timely and transparent manner,” the report said.

The domain of social inclusion also registered high risk scores, more specifically in the domains of representations of minority groups, access to media for women, media literacy and protection against speech. illegal and harmful.

Speaking at Thursday’s conference, European Commission Vice-President for Values ​​and Transparency Vera Jourova said that although the EU could do little about disputes within Member States, it monitored the actions of Member States in terms of media rights and compliance with the law. She added that the law on freedom of the media should be adopted at the beginning of September.

In this law, “issues such as lack of media transparency, funding and ownership will be addressed,” she said.

The national report for the Media Pluralism Monitor was compiled and written by Louiselle Vassallo of the University of Malta and reviewed by a group of national experts in the field.

You can see the full report here.

Amanda J. Marsh