The media in Malta have been accused of “promoting racism” and acting as a main “contributor to the fear of Malta being invaded and conquered by Africans”. Racial discrimination remains widespread in Malta, particularly when it comes to employment and housing, according to a report published in Brussels yesterday to mark International Day Against Racism. The European Network Against Racism suggests that over the past years the media in Malta encouraged racial discrimination through its focus on irregular migration problems. The co-authors of the part dealing with Malta – Jeannine Vassallo and Jean Pierre Gauci from an NGO called The People for Change Foundation – say an in-depth content analysis sh ows indirect racism was common in Maltese media. They say “illegal immigrants” and “illegal immigration” were the words of choice when describing matters relating to migration. Journalists made little distinction between the terms “illegal immigrants”, “irregular migration”, “asylum seekers” and “refugees” despite the different legal definitions. “Additionally, derogatory terms such as ‘clandestine’, ‘parasites’ and ‘scroungers’ were also used at times.” The report adds: “Most features in the media depict migrants in a negative light, with most representing migrants as troublemakers or criminals as opposed to hard workers, family members and churchgoers, which would be considered pious in Maltese society.”
ENAR also hit out at the internet, particularly online websites and comment forums made available by Maltese online newspapers. According to the report, Jon Hoisaeter, from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, described the language used on such online forums as “rather aggressive towards immigrants” which is “very discouraging”. The report says the online forums are used extensively to discuss migration issues even by far-right groups that aim to get their message across and enable discussion among followers. Apart from the criticism of the Maltese media, the report says discrimination against African minorities in Malta based on race is still widespread, particularly when it comes to employment and housing. The report, which deals with the period January 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010, notes that employment discrimination against Africans and Muslims is pervasive both when seeking a job and in terms of the work conditions offered. Claiming that some migrant workers were even offered jobs for €2 a day in the construction industry, the report notes that “migrants felt obliged to accept these conditions lest failing to do so would mean having no source of income whatsoever”. With regard to housing, ENAR claims many Maltese landlords are reluctant to rent accommodation to foreigners (Africans) for fear of damage to their property due to neglect. “Furthermore, there are certain areas which are highly populated by migrants, largely due to cheap prices and the fact that they are outside traditional city centres,” the report states.
The Times of Malta