20 Mar 2018

Maltese media accuses foreigner of murder without evidence

When a 24-year-old collapsed and died in Malta's nightclub district, media published the name and photograph of a 19-year-old Bulgarian man, implying he was the murderer. The man was later released, and a source said the suspect "tried to help".

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
Source: Malta Today
Maltese media accuses foreigner of murder without evidence - NewsMavens
Crime scene. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

Maltese journalists have some soul-searching to do, according to Raphael Vassallo, author of the article below. The unverified accusations against the Bulgarian teenager led to an avalanche of death threats on his Facebook wall just hours after their publication. 

The teenager collaborated with the officers and was later released without charges.

The media jumped on the story because it fit the ready-made narrative about attributing crime in Malta to foreigners.

Now the Maltese who view migrants as a threat have had their worst fears confirmed by the story, and it will be difficult for the media to de-escalate the situation -- if they plan on undoing the damage they caused, as Vassallo argues they should.

violence, media, migration

Details from the story:

  • Zach Meli (24) died under mysterious circumstances. His cousin wrote an open letter to the prime minister claiming that he was punched by a foreigner in Paceville, a notorious entertainment district.
  • The suspect was identified as a 19-year-old Bulgarian. His name and photo were circulated by most prominent media houses.
  • The suspect was released without charges.
  • The autopsy revealed no signs of violence, and CCTV footage proved that the victim did not fall on the ground as reported.
  • A far-right demonstration against migrants took place regardless.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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