Updated 8.40pm

The Nationalist Party has called on the government to set up a fund to financially support media houses, saying they are crucial to disseminating information to the public. 

Addressing a press conference, PN MP Therese Comodini Cachia said media houses and journalists were crucial in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and that government measures alone were not the solution since the media was needed to relay information to the public. 

She said that people were flocking to online news portals and to social media to obtain information and the latest news about COVID-19. The problem is the social media platforms were relaying misinformation about the pandemic so online news portals had to counter this with valid and correct information. 

Suggesting the setting up of a fund to financially support online news portals covering the COVID-19 crisis, Comodini Cachia said the government would be addressing misinformation and fake news, increase public awareness on the pandemic and contribute towards online debates with experts, interviews with medical experts and Q&As with the public. She said the fund should be managed by the Superintendence of Public Health. 

She said there should be an inter-newsroom fact-checking team which can check fact emerging on the social media and publish the correct information.

This may start with work on the COVID-19 crisis but could develop further to strengthen the fourth pillar of democracy.

Moreover, the government should establish a message information system with COVID-19 updates where people can register to receive the information. This would be government-sponsored and established by an inter-media house group to ensure the independence of messages.


Asked about how much money such a fund should include, Comodini Cachia said: “If government found the €4.5 million to finance a marketing campaign through VistaJet, surely it can find the funds to sustain media houses,” she said. 

PN MP Karl Gouder said journalists needed access to correct information and information requested by them in a timely fashion. Such a fund would financially support media houses to pay salaries for journalists working around the clock to disseminate correct information to the public and to counter fake news. 

Readers’ digital habits were already creating financial difficulties for media houses, but at a time when media houses are needed to ensure correct information, when most of their work is COVID-19 related, when the crisis is depleting whatever financial income they had even more, the government needs to financially sustain the fourth pillar of democracy. 

MP David Thake said the PN supported the requests made by six media houses for tax exemptions or reductions in the wake of declining sales during the pandemic, as well as their request to sustain salaries of journalists at a time when newsrooms are primarily focused on reporting COVID-19 developments. 

IĠM supports calls

In a statement, the Istitut tal-Ġurnalisti Maltin supported the Opposition's calls. 

It said health authorities needed journalists to pass on their message and directives effectively. 

While praising the service of healthcare workers in tackling the crisis, the IĠM said journalists also needed protection for both their health and their employment. 

"The role of the media is essential in any democratic country. In circumstances such as these, the journalistic sector becomes even more important but unfortunately more vulnerable economically," it said. 

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