Malta’s government is desperately trying to control the narrative on the island about its position on Putin’s war in Ukraine. However, instead of simply taking concrete action in support of Ukraine to shake off its pro-Putin stance, it’s forcing an independent newspaper to print its hollow words.

The Maltese government’s latest tactic involves using ‘right of reply’ laws to have an independent media outlet print a response to its own editorial.

On Monday 18th April, The Malta Independent ran an editorial titled: Is Malta doing enough to sanction Russia?

You can read the editorial here. The editorial ends by saying:

“As an EU country, Malta’s response and its sanctions against the aggressor will be under the microscope.  Are we doing enough as things stand?  Let’s just say that other European countries have elected for a more pro-active approach than Malta has thus far, and leave it there.”

In a move not often used to reply to newspaper editorials, the Maltese government led by Robert Abela sent a right of reply through its Department of Information. In the reply, the government tries to assure us that it’s “fully committed” to implementing the sanctions the EU draws up.

In a nutshell, the reply confirms that the Maltese government is not willing to go above and beyond what it’s legally obliged to do when the EU collectively agrees on Russian sanctions.

Former MP and MEP Therese Comodini Cachia wasn’t impressed with the government’s latest antics either.

Instead of sending right of replies, the government could start answering questions from the media about the action it’s taking against Russia. It can start being transparent about what it’s doing to help Ukraine and what it’s doing to hinder Putin’s agenda.

While other countries expelled Russian diplomats, Malta’s only action concerning them was to improve their security. While other countries saw massive protests against the Russian invasion, Malta’s police were seen moving protest items that were left in front of the Russian embassy.

While the large majority of MEPs voted to scrap the sale of European passports, all four Maltese Labour Party MEPs, Alex Agius Saliba, Josiane Cutajar, Cyrus Engerer, and Alfred Sant, voted against, making them the only members of the S&D parliamentary group to do so.

Malta’s government knows that the world is watching. With the possibility that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky might address the Maltese Parliament via video link, the Maltese government could feel incentivized to control the local narrative about the ongoing war even tighter.