World Press Freedom Day, celebrated today marks the official setting up of a Journalists’ Committee in Malta to fight for journalists’ rights and defend press freedoms.
The Committee is made up of working journalists, editors, photographers, columnists, cartoonists, freelance writers and opinion makers who share the democratic ideals of the free press, transparency and accountability.
Journalists hail from the majority of Maltese media organisations.
The Committee will be campaigning for a Freedom of Information Act, a Whistleblower Act, an overhaul of the Press Act and libel laws, and plans to organise a national seminar on Freedom of Information this year.
On a day to day basis, the Committee will be monitoring statements made by public figures concerning journalism and freedom of the press and about its members, new laws, regulations and decisions of government and public institutions that are of relevance to journalism, pending libel cases, court decisions and sentences.
"On this day, we join thousands of colleagues worldwide in honouring the sacrifices made for freedom of the press, and in reminding governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," said Committee spokesperson Massimo Farrugia.
The theme proposed for this year by the World Association of Newspapers is: "Don't lock up information: Stop Jailing Journalists". A total of 58 journalists were murdered last year, and more than 500 were arrested.
"Beyond this symbolic day, we intend to take this seriously," Farrugia added. "While incarceration of journalists and editors in Malta is luckily a thing of the past, the present libel laws, lack of freedom of information, and arbitrary access to information of public relevance remain among the serious issues we face everyday in our duty to inform the public."
The Committee expresses its solidarity with the victims of arson attacks, targeted because of their work with immigrants and for taking a public stand for tolerance and diversity.
"These cowardly attacks are also attacks on the right to freedom of expression," Farrugia said. "It is shocking that the hatred towards people of diverse cultures has now extended to the violent intolerance towards different opinions."
Anybody interested to join the Journalists’ Committee may send an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.