Photo: Miriam Galea (Instagram: galeamiriam) + composition
Malta: Concerns over campaign of disinformation and spoof websites targeting media

Press-ECPMF

31 August 2021

No Comments

mfrr logo

31 August 2021

The partner organisations in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) are highly concerned about attempts to spread disinformation and discredit Maltese journalists and bloggers who write about the recently indicted murder suspect alleged to have orchestrated and funded the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.

 

On 26 August, independent blogger Manuel Delia wrote that “someone somewhere is pretending to be me and sending emails that look like I’ve sent them and building spoof websites to look like they’re carrying things I wrote.” The smear campaign, which included fake emails from Delia saying he was suffering from a mental illness, came after the murder suspect falsely accusing Delia of pressuring a judge to keep him in prison. Delia was then targeted by harassment on social media that suggested he should be “taught a lesson”. 

 

On 28 and 29 August, it was then reported that the websites of news outlets Times of Malta, Newsbook, Net News, Lovin Malta, TVM and StradaRjali as well as the non-governmental organisation Repubblika were spoofed. Many of the fake platforms were registered using the same domain registration service. The common thread between the fake articles is their apparent aim of discrediting journalists and bloggers writing about the alleged mastermind and casting doubt on the prosecution’s case against him.

 

While it is currently unclear who is behind the impersonation and fake websites, widely-read blogger Simon Mercieca has been feeding the frenzy, claiming (under the guise of asking critical questions) that Repubblika pays Delia 30,000 euros per year to be its Executive Officer and rents offices from Delia’s wife; both claims are untrue. It is not the first time that Mercieca has spread unverified or false information that aims to discredit reporters who cover criminal proceedings related to the main suspect in Caruana Galizia’s murder. For instance, earlier this month, Mercieca attempted to damage the reputation of Matthew Xuereb, Assistant Editor at the Times of Malta and President of the Institute of Maltese Journalists, by falsely claiming that Xuereb was behind a fake Facebook trolling profile. 

 

Mercieca has also targeted the Caruana Galizia family, falsely claiming that they were in privileged possession of a non-PDF electronic version of the report of the Public Inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination in advance of its publication which, Mercieca claimed, “allows the family to make corrections and changes, possibly also to its advantage”. Earlier this year, Mercieca purported that it was “pertinent to ask” whether organisations supporting Daphne Caruana Galizia’s cause “are receiving funds or help to pressurize our judiciary” in a thinly-veiled anti-Semitic post.

 

The MFRR stands in solidarity with the targeted journalists, media workers and members of civil society. We call on all those involved to immediately end their campaign of disinformation. The Maltese State must swiftly investigate and prosecute any criminal acts committed in this context. Furthermore, we call on the Maltese authorities to take decisive action towards the implementation of the Public Inquiry’s recommendations concerning the protection of journalists, including those stemming from its identification of the State’s failure to protect reporters and media workers before attacks escalate to physical violence.

Signed by:

ARTICLE 19

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

International Press Institute (IPI) 

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement has been written by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. This project provides legal and practical support, public advocacy and information to protect journalists and media workers. The MFRR is organised by a consortium led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) including ARTICLE 19, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Institute for Applied Informatics at the University of Leipzig (InfAI), International Press Institute (IPI) and CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT). The project is co-funded by the European Commission.

Read news by categories:

Related news

Statement

Fidesz Media Council moves to silence independent station Tilos Rádió

The partners of the MFRR express serious concern over the decision by the Fidesz-controlled Media Council to block the frequency license renewal of Tilos Rádió.

READ MORE
Statement

Czech Republic: Independence of public broadcasters must be insulated against future attacks

Partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) have published a statement urging the Czech Government to come good on its promises to strengthen the independence of public broadcasters and to seize the opportunity to put press freedom at the centre of its EU presidency programme.

READ MORE
Statement

Open Letter: Safeguarding peace and democracy in Europe through a strong European Media Freedom Act

To mark Europe Day 2022, ECPMF joined an open letter to European Commissioners Vera Jourová, Thierry Breton and Margrethe Vestager to call on the Commission to take an ambitious approach to the European Media Freedom Act.

READ MORE
Statement

Albania: Private data breaches and intimidation of journalists must be investigated

The MFRR, together with Safe Journalists Network and RSF, have written to Mr. Besnik Dervishi, Commissioner for the Right to Access to Information and Personal Data Protection of Albania, calling for a thorough investigation into a recent private data breach and intimidation of journalists in Albania.

READ MORE
Statement

Estonia: Criminal fines for journalists over public interest reporting send dangerous signal

The MFRR partners are concerned about the imposition of fines on two journalists and a news outlet in Estonia after they published information about pre-trial criminal proceedings without seeking permission or informing the prosecutor’s office.

READ MORE
Statement

CASE welcomes the EC’s Anti-SLAPP Initiative as a landmark step in the right direction

The Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) welcomes the European Commission’s anti-SLAPP initiative unveiled today which includes key remedies and safeguards needed in any effective anti-SLAPP legislation.

READ MORE