Only citizens in Hungary are more fearful of the repercussions of airing their political views than the Maltese, according to a new Eurobarometer survey.

Just under half of all Maltese respondents, 47%, believe that expressing their political opinions could have negative consequences, the second-highest rate in the EU.

Malta finds itself sandwiched between Hungary, which props up the table at 61%, and Poland at 41%.

At the other end of the spectrum, only 17% of people in Luxembourg and Portugal hold this view. In total, 30% of all EU citizens say that this is the case, compared to the 68% who say that they can air their political opinions without fearing the repercussions.

The survey, which looked at citizens’ awareness of the state of democracy within their countries, was carried out in March among 502 people in Malta, and almost 26,000 people across the EU.

Maltese have little confidence in fellow citizens, institutions

The survey reveals that only 39% of Maltese have confidence in their fellow citizens to defend democracy in Malta, the lowest score among all EU countries and far below the bloc’s average of 55%.

Similarly, the Maltese also show little confidence in several other institutions, including politicians and political parties (23%), the courts (32%), the media (29%), public administration (36%), and civil society organisations (49%).

On the other hand, 58% of citizens say that they have confidence in EU institutions to safeguard Malta’s democracy.

Disinformation biggest threat to Malta’s democracy

The survey shows that the Maltese view disinformation as the leading threat to democracy in Malta. Just under half of respondents highlighted false or misleading information as the most serious threat, ahead of other issues such as the distrust of institutions, political apathy and foreign interference.

This is also true of the European bloc as a whole.

Just under half of Maltese say that they are frequently exposed to disinformation or fake news and almost two-thirds say that they are most likely to encounter disinformation on social media.

Just under half, or 46%, say that they are also likely to encounter false information on television, with only Greece, Poland and Hungary scoring higher.

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