Malta is still under the dark cloud that gathered with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. She was murdered for her part in exposing public corruption.

The cloud will only lift when all those involved in the planning, financing and organisation of her murder are brought to justice. In addition, urgent steps need to be taken to strengthen media freedom and protect journalists from attacks, intimidation and even murder.

In its electoral manifesto for 2022 (proposals 915 to 920) the Labour Party in government recognises the indispensable role of the media as the “fourth pillar of democracy”. It is committed to embed this role in the constitution and to take all measures to safeguard the freedom of the media and journalists.

The Labour Party pledges to protect media organisations, journalists and civil society activists from those who use their financial and political power to stop them from exposing public corruption. There is also the commitment to reduce the role of the two main political parties in the Broadcasting Authority.

In its manifesto, the Labour Party also says it is ready to invest in the professional development of journalists and in the media education of citizens so that they can detect misinformation, disinformation and fake news.

All these are nice words that need to become reality.

The government is moving too slowly to implement the recommendations on the media by the public inquiry into the assassination of Caruana Galizia. The main recommendations include:

• The setting up of a police unit to protect journalists in danger.

• Speeding up police investigations into journalists’ reports on corruption.

• Scrutinising the links between big business and politics, public administrators and regulatory authorities.

• Structuring cooperation between the police and journalists investigating corruption and crime while ensuring journalists protect their sources.

• Training the police to appreciate better the work of journalists.

• Amending the constitution to entrench freedom of the media through the obligation of the state to support free media and freedom of access to information.

• Appointing a media ombudsman to implement standards of ethics for journalists to protect journalists and also the public.

• Reforming the BA to make it more independent, transforming state broadcasting into public broadcasting and regulating impartiality in party media.

• Strengthening the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) to reduce the arbitrary power of authorities to refuse to provide the requested information on the pretext of public interest and commercial reasons. FOIA must be improved to provide for more openness and promptness to provide information from official sources.

• Protecting journalists from strategic lawsuits against public participation (also known as SLAPP) in libels aimed at intimidating them. Look at anti-SLAPP laws in the US, Canada and Australia and see how these relate to article 10 (2) of the European Convention of Human Rights. Action in this area needs international coordination.

• Amending libel law to eliminate frivolous libels.

• Stopping libels automatically once journalist dies.

• Using public funds to ensure the viability of local media.

• Separating availability of public funds for advertising and public messaging from allocation so that all media benefit from such funds.

The government is moving too slowly to implement the recommendations on the media by the public inquiry on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia- Evarist Bartolo

• Taking action to regulate the profession of journalists (statute of rights for journalists to protect them from proprietorial interference).

Finally, the manifesto pledges to set up a panel of experts (academics, media law experts, journalists and media owners) to carry out an in-depth study of the media in Malta so that changes will be implemented in a holistic and comprehensive manner as part of the constitutional change process led by the president of the republic.

The panel has been set up but the government still has to show it has the requisite political will to strengthen media freedom and protect journalists.

Considering nuclear

The nuclear industry is building small modular reactors (SMR) that can produce up to 300MW of electricity. They can be installed on floating platforms and anchored 10 kilometres away from shore in a depth of 100 metres and supply energy to an island through cable.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says: “SMRs could play a key role in mitigating climate change, not only due to their ability to decarbonise electric grids, owing to the quick scalability and deployment of additional modules as needed, but also because of their potential utility for non-electric applications such as seawater desalination and heat and hydrogen production, processes that have up to this point been driven primarily by fossil fuels.”

We should consider seriously having a floating offshore nuclear power station between Malta and Sicily after carrying out the necessary health and safety, environmental, financial and political studies. Countries that ruled out nuclear energy because of the Chernobyl and Fukushima tragedies are reconsidering the nuclear option as the industry has become safer and has learned from those calamities.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has quickly taught us that, no matter how big a country is, it cannot truly be independent and sovereign if it depends on another country for its energy. The EU has now cut its dependency on Russia and is becoming dependent on other gas and oil producing nations. Even in the case of renewable energy, we will be dependent on countries that control the rare resources necessary for their production. To gain a degree of energy independence, more EU countries (including Malta) should consider seriously investing more in nuclear energy.

At the moment, EU nuclear generation capacity consists of the 103 nuclear power reactors (100 GWe) operating in 13 of the 27 EU member states, accounting for about one-quarter of the electricity generated in the whole of the EU.

Malta is one of the countries supporting the inclusion of nuclear in a list of green energy investments. Saving our planet and moving away from polluting energy that aggravates climate change will require a mix of clean energy, including nuclear, solar, wind and hydrogen.

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