Press freedom in Malta is in a “problematic” state, according to Reporters Without Borders, whose annual index shows the island plunging 18 places, the sharpest drop among 180 countries.
Malta is now 65th on the World Press Freedom Index, published annually since 2002.
Daphne Caruana Galizia’s brutal murder in October contributed to the deterioration of press freedom in Malta, the organisation noted, adding the murder was a cause for concern for European democracy.
“[Ms] Caruana Galizia’s targeted car bomb death lifted the veil on the judicial harassment and intimidation to which journalists are routinely subjected in the island State.
“Ms Caruana Galizia had been threatened for years and, at the time of her death, was the target of 42 civil suits and five criminal cases,” the international non-profit organisation pointed out in its evaluation of press freedom in Europe.
Leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility
The report also noted that though freedom of the press in Europe was still regarded as the best, four of the five biggest drops in the index were in European countries.
The Czech Republic’s ranking fell 11 places, followed by Serbia and Slovakia, which both fell 10.
“The traditionally safe environment for journalists in Europe has begun to deteriorate. Two murders in the space of five months, the first in Malta and the second in Slovakia, have capped a worrying decline for the continent’s democracies,” the index said.
Other countries labelled “problematic” included the Ukraine, Hungary, Greece, Poland, Brazil and Peru.
The organisation pointed out that “verbal violence” by politicians against the media in Europe was also on the rise. The Reporters Without Borders secretary general, Christophe Deloire, insisted that unleashing hatred towards journalists was “one of the worst threats to democracies”.
Unleashing hatred towards journalists was “one of the worst threats to democracies”
“Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility because they undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda.
“To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire,” Mr Deloire said.
Norway topped the World Press Freedom Index for the second year running, followed again by Sweden in second place.
The World Press Freedom Index measures the level of media freedom, including the level of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legal framework, transparency and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.
The index does not evaluate government policy.
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