PEN Malta has written to the Prime Minister asking him to “speak out in the clearest terms” in favour of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

In an open letter, the NGO said it was in discussions with experts and organisations in connection with the ongoing disinformation campaign targetting activists and journalists in Malta and make specific proposals.

Nevertheless, it urged Robert Abela “to look at the wider context in which this campaign is being waged”, to the backdrop of “hostile rhetoric towards journalists and activists, and of consistent failures by public institutions”.

“We feel that you, both as Prime Minister as well as the leader of the Labour Party, have the moral authority and duty to speak out in the clearest terms in favour of freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” PEN president Immanuel Mifsud said.

“Besides your duty to use the right language and rhetoric, we feel it is also your duty to ensure that all the institutions, both of your government and also of your party, reflect your position consistently in this regard.

“We remind you of the results of the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia which explicitly points at the enabling atmosphere that led to her killing because of the action and inaction of Cabinet, as well as the context of her vilification by members of parliament, ministers, and the Labour Party media.”

PEN hoped that the inquiry’s recommendations are implemented “urgently and transparently”, overseen by an independent commission that includes civil society.

'Mockery of freedom of information'

It pointed out that journalists and activists “are still targets of partisan rhetoric” that made them more vulnerable to threats and abuse, which inevitably led to other forms of violence that needed to stop once and for all.

It reminded the Prime Minister of “the urgent need” for “radical reform of public broadcasting” that would make it truly accountable to the community, and that it would answer to the public that it is meant to serve.

“We remind you of the continuous mockery of freedom of information shown by the institutions you lead, as well as state institutions, which resort to all sorts of excuses so to keep information of public interest from the citizenry.

“As long as all this is allowed to go on, neither your rhetoric nor the technical proposals would be enough to strengthen our democratic life,” Pen said as it looked forward to an opportunity to meet the PM and discuss these points and others that are “becoming more and more urgent”.

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