Malta urged to process freedom of information requests transparently

LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (MNA/ITALPRESS) – A European study is suggesting that the Maltese authorities should process freedom of information requests (FOIs) quickly and transparently and be held accountable if they fail to do so.

The report “Monitoring Media Pluralism in the Digital Era” and published by the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom concluded the “urgent” need for the Maltese authorities to bring the freedom of information requests in line with international best practice. “Freedom of information requests need to be addressed in a timely and transparent manner, and when authorities fail to do so, they should be held accountable,” said the report.

The report added, “access to information remains a pressing concern in Malta, and not only for government-critical media.”

The difficulty in accessing information on matters of public interest, such as public spending, for the purposes of this report is a testament to the culture of secrecy and lack of transparency, it said. Rating the right to information in the country as being at “high risk”, the report said it was more at risk than last year, highlighting “the general tendency of the government to sideline and ignore critical media”.

Citing a letter sent to Prime Minister Robert Abela last year where Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic criticised Malta’s “unwarranted secrecy within state institutions”, the report said authorities’ refusal to release information wasted journalists’ time by reducing the news value of the information.

The Media Pluralism Monitor 2024 report also called for the Public Broadcasting Sevices to move out of state control and for party political broadcasters to “no longer enjoy the position whereby they get privileged access to information.”

The European University Institute also flagged politicians’ use of social media, which they said made it “easy” for them to “sideline” journalists and the mainstream media. Noting that the government had a “leading position” as a buyer of advertising on Facebook, the report said the layout of social media content made it difficult for viewers to distinguish it from news content.

The report rated the viability of the media in Malta as being at “high risk” and riskier than last year, pointing to the use of social media as a major factor.

Calling the representation of minorities and gender equality in the media “dire”, the report highlighted “issues of gender imbalance, low visibility of minorities, and limited access to people with disabilities”.

Rating the profession, its standards and protects as being at “medium risk”, the report noted that “many voices” in the industry called for more protections for independent journalism.

It said “public warnings” should be issued to media organisations that fail to observe “fairness and transparency” about its choice of experts and how they represent minorities.

Overall, the strength of the media in Malta was rated as being at “average risk”, with a score of 37% risk.

Denmark scored the highest (13%) closely followed by Germany (16%), while Turkey came in bottom at 75% and was rated as being at “high-risk” in four out of the five main categories.


Foto: Agenzia Fotogramma

Source: medNews