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|Founded||19 November 1999|
MaltaToday is a twice-weekly English language newspaper published in Malta. Its first edition was published on 19 November 1999, and started out as a Friday newspaper. Currently it is published on Wednesdays and Sundays.
MaltaToday was first published on Friday, 19 November 1999. It was edited by Saviour Balzan and founded to provide a new, liberal alternative to the English-language press in circulation, by promoting an agenda in favour of EU accession and critical voices excluded from the establishment.
MaltaToday was published every week on Friday, positioning itself as a weekend newspaper for two years before it decided to enter the market of English-language Sunday newspapers, until then dominated by the Sunday Times and the Malta Independent on Sunday.
MaltaToday started achieving widespread recognition for its investigative reports and political news stories, earning a reputation for exposing stories left untouched by other media. It was the first newspaper to break the news in August 2001 that Commissioner of Police George Grech had been accused of sexual harassment. In 2002, it started revisiting the police investigations into the 1985 murder of Lino Cauchi, and with it, the political reverberations of the violence and mysteries of the 1980s.
It was a most vocal proponent for accession to the European Union, editorially committing itself to EU membership in 2002, and celebrating it in 2003.
In late 2003, Saviour Balzan purchased MaltaToday and the Malta Financial and Business Times from Network Publications, and started a new publishing firm, Newsworks. Newsworks would soon undergo a new name change, to Mediatoday, with the addition of Roger de Giorgio, formerly the CEO of the Nationalist party’s TV station Net TV, as the company's new co-owner. While Balzan hailed from the arena of third-party politics, as a founder of green party Alternattiva Demokratika, de Giorgio had headed the boycott office during the Nationalist party's campaign against partisan broadcasting by Xandir Malta in the 1980s, the state controlled television service.
It was an unlikely alliance for most media observers, but one which sealed the company’s belief in independent journalism, free of the self-serving interests of the political parties and corporate players. Its ownership consolidated, MaltaToday started focusing on its news service, becoming a first point of reference on political news, environmental reports, property rights and land use, hunting, and the championing of civil liberties, most notably the introduction of divorce.
MaltaToday’s reputation for uncovering political abuse and financial excess, as in the case of the Price Club scandal, was tested by numerous libel suits. Coping under pain of the financial stress of the libel laws, still squarely set against the freedom of the press, became a state of reality for MaltaToday.
On 17 May 2005, it was hit by the unexpected death of senior journalist Julian Manduca, one of Malta’s foremost environmental activists. A focal point of the newspaper, Manduca is remembered with fondness by the staff at Mediatoday, both for his humane interest in many social issues and his journalistic integrity.
MaltaToday’s championing of migrants’ and asylum seekers’ rights in the aftermath of EU accession, gave the newspaper a more defined role in the changing landscape of Maltese society. As the immigration and race debate overtook the island’s agenda, in May 2006 the front door of editor Saviour Balzan was attacked by arsonists at 4am. Nobody was ever captured for the attack, one of several committed against members of the press and refugee organisations.
But it was also during these years that the paper increased its circulation and remained commercially successful, making its mark as a Sunday newspaper that contained some of the finest news stories, amongst them, revisiting the 1972 fall of the Bical group of companies at the hands of politically appointed liquidators; it was crucial in the death knell of a new golf course – a controversial point of debate over Malta’s land use – when it revealed it would be sited over a vital water table; in 2006, it revealed the AFM army log book that ordered rescuers to stay away from a boatload of asylum seekers that eventually drowned in the Mediterranean; in 2007, it became the first newspaper, ever, to force the European Parliament to publish specific details on the salaries and expenses of MEPs, thanks to a ruling by the European Ombudsman.
Its reputation was further sealed in 2009 when it revealed that finance minister Tonio Fenech had accepted a freebie flight on a private jet to an Arsenal match. Weeks later, MaltaToday would reveal claims by the owner of the Jerma Palace Hotel, alleging that he was carrying out works at the minister's home, as a favour for Fenech's intervention to sell his hotel to George Fenech - the owner of the private jet aboard which Tonio Fenech flew to watch Arsenal.
One of Mediatoday’s main achievements has been to provide reliable surveys that in the past have accurately predicted the results of general and European Parliament elections, and consistently recognised the growing tide in favour of the introduction of divorce in Malta.
By 2007, it was clear that the Maltese newspaper industry was undergoing radical changes. Many newspapers were aware of dwindling readership numbers as the force of the internet took over. Advertising was increasingly concentrated among major news players. Political patronage was increasingly evident in the distribution of spoils amongst favoured publishing and production houses. MaltaToday took a bold step that same year to increase its circulation and news coverage with two newspapers, the MaltaToday Midweek, published on Wednesday, and its first Maltese-language newspaper, Illum, published on Sunday.
While the Midweek keeps serving as a follow-on to the Sunday issue, Illum provides a new media outlet for a different audience. But both newspapers would face an uphill climb in a market that depends on a limited advertising pool. At the same time, increasing costs began to affect other newspapers’ pricing decisions, most notably starting with The Times raising its price to €1. MaltaToday resisted increasing its price, but eventually had to follow suit.