Malta climbed 11 places on the World Press Freedom Index in 2024 - largely because the situation in other countries deteriorated.

The index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and published on Friday, ranked Malta in 73rd place - up from 84th place out of 180 countries. 

When comparing how EU member states fared on the index, Malta scored second to last.

Greece was the only European country that ranked worse than Malta in 88th place, while Hungary - which the report singled out as a place where politicians are actively trying to shrink the media landscape for independent journalism - scored the third worst among the member states in 67th place.

“Given the insignificant improvement of its score, [Malta's] progress by 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index can be attributed mainly to the deterioration of the situation in other countries,” Pavol Szalai, Head of the EU-Balkans Desk at RSF said.

“The recommendations resulting from the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia have not been implemented, while full justice has still not been served in this key case for the fight against impunity in Europe.”

Szalai added that the Maltese government also failed to resolve issues related to the independence and sustainability of the media, provide more robust access to freedom of information or adequately protect journalists from SLAPP suits

“The media landscape continues to be deeply polarised. However, the recently adopted European Media Freedom Act brings hope for improvement even in Malta,” he concluded. 

According to the RSF ranking, press freedom in Malta was found to be in a “problematic” situation, sitting in the middle of the scale that runs from a “good” situation to a “very serious” situation. 

From the 180 countries ranked by the index, only eight countries were found to currently have a “good situation” for press freedom. 

Norway retained its top spot on the list, followed by Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Ireland, which last year was ranked the second-best country for press freedom, slipped six places and was ranked eight on this year’s list.

'Press freedom is being threatened by political authorities'

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, the report found that Eritrea was the worst place in the world at maintaining a free press within its borders, followed by Syria, Afghanistan and North Korea. 

Explaining the bottom ranking, RSF said that since being completely taken over by the Taliban, Afghanistan has incessantly persecuted journalists and slid down 44 places in the ranking.

It also described both Syria and Eritrea as a “lawless zone” for the media, with both countries seeing a record number of journalists being detained, disappearing or being held hostage.

RSF found that around the world press freedom is being threatened by political authorities, despite them being the supposed guarantors who are supposed to ensure its longevity. 

Never has this been more evident than in this year’s political indicator - one of five used to score countries for the ranking - registering a global average fall of 7.6 points. 

Governments are failing in their role to provide a safe environment for journalism to flourish and safeguard the public’s right to access independent and reliable information, the report’s authors said. 

"As more than half the world's population goes to the polls in 2024, RSF is warning of a worrying trend revealed by the 2024 World Press Freedom Index: a decline in the political indicator, one of five indicators detailed in the Index,” Anne Bocandé, RSF editorial director said.

“States and other political forces are playing a decreasing role in protecting press freedom. This disempowerment sometimes goes hand in hand with more hostile actions that undermine the role of journalists, or even instrumentalise the media through campaigns of harassment or disinformation.

"Journalism worthy of that name is, on the contrary, a necessary condition for any democratic system and the exercise of political freedoms.”

Correction May 3, 2024: A previous version stated that Malta ranked 81st last year. 

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.