Of Open Secrets

It is no secret that the media in Malta has been captured by the state. It took more than ten years to perfect, but slowly and surely, we have finally got there.
In the early days post 2013, public officials took an active part in dehumanizing and hate campaigns to counter Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was unravelling government scandals and corruption at breakneck speed. Some fat cats hatched up the idea of buying The Malta Independent.  The online troll army spread huge amounts of venom. This led to a vitriolic attack on the independent media which culminated with the brutal assassination in October 2017, of one of the most formidable and fearless investigative journalists the country had ever seen.
 Years later, and still the government remains intent on silencing the media. Notwithstanding the conclusions of the Public Inquiry Board, no protection to the media has been granted to date. Proposed laws by the Nationalist Party in opposition were immediately shot down. Requests by the Shift News for Freedom of Information have been denied, leading to more than 40 court cases and awarding Malta with first prize for the country with the largest amount of SLAPP in the Europe. Many Parliamentary Questions remain unanswered by government ministers, attacking government transparency and accountability at the heart. Ministers and top officials avoid journalists like the plague. They don’ invite them to official occasions anymore, but instead send them choreographed videos.
Just a few months ago, our government was caught pushing for the right to use spyware against journalists. A few days ago, our dear Prim Minister stated publicly that for his government to accept journalism as the fourth pillar of democracy, it would need to regulate the very same journalists whose duty consists in holding the government accountable and informing the public of any corruption it uncovers. At the same time, in order to make a switch from investigative journalism to mere reporting, the government has started sponsoring many media houses in order to make sure that no one bites the hand that feeds it. This earned us second place after Poland for state capture of the independent media and the capture of editorials by big business.
Then there is the national broadcaster, which is supposed to report news independently and impartially. But no matter the amount of court judgements, a rebuke from the Speaker of the House, fines and decisions by the Public Broadcasting Authority due to absolute partiality in favour of the government, and against any opposition, it won’t budge. The national broadcaster, sponsored by hardworking taxpayers, has become the biggest government propogandist. Debates, topical talk shows and healthy discussions have become a thing of the past, even as we near the MEP and Local Councils Elections.
Cyrus Engerer himself, in an interview on the Malta Independent on the 18th of February, 2024, said that ‘ it seems like there is a fear within the (Labour) party to talk’. If the fear now extends to Labour supporters, imagine how supporters of other parties in opposition must feel like.
A democratic government which wants to protect its majority makes sure to serve the people in the best way possible. A democratic government which wants to protect its majority is not tolerant to corruption and works in the most transparent, meritocratic and accountable manner. It certainly does not create an atmosphere of fear or capture the independent media and the public broadcaster.