The media plays an incredibly crucial role in policymaking and social issues; especially in a small country much like Malta, where one word on the media can spark nationwide discussion. A social issue which has been addressed throughout the year of 2017, and that has still not come to its conclusion or solution; is the issue of abortion. Abortion is an issue which is incredibly controversial, especially within a mainly Roman Catholic population where individuals think that some rights are less relevant than what is found within the Holy Bible.
The media’s function is to inform society and help individuals shape their opinions regarding a topic and lead to an ultimately better society. The media’s power to form opinions is not always used for the greater good, as biases are also present within messages sent by newspapers, the news, television and other forms of one-way communication to the general public. The writer Cohen, writing in 1963 emphasised the important role the media plays in agenda setting, he stated that “while the media do not tell voters what to think, it tells the public what issues to think about”. Further findings by Weaver and Elliot in the year 1985 convey that newspapers do not mirror political reality, however, instead they filter political activities in order to focus on issues and minimize others.
The creation of social policies is a process that is political, which is affected by various social and economic factors. The media plays a vital role in forming the social context in which policies are established. Through the media, the population is educated on how it will be affected by public policies, and this process provides the government with feedback regarding the suggested policies.
As a country with elements of Roman Catholic beliefs embedded into the socialisation of the most part of the population, Malta has taken some progressive policies and incorporated them into its law, such as the legalisation of LGBTQI unions. However, the “traditional” side of the population is evident in the fact that divorce was introduced into the country only in the year 2011, and the Morning After Pill was still a controversial topic, with incredibly negative connotations, up until its legalisation in 2017; and even though legalisation has taken place, many still claim that it demoralises the country. The issue of abortion is still relatively considered as taboo – it is a topic which is often discussed in a biased manner from many forms of media communication.
Article 1 is from the Independent Local News, entitled “Tonio Fenech uses opportunity of Holocaust commemoration to condemn abortion”. The title of the article itself causes a reaction within the reader, either of disgust or of agreement. The Member of Parliament refers to abortion as the “modern-day holocaust”. The author’s opinion regarding the idea expressed by MP Tonio Fenech is shown through words such as “…proceeded to say that people are trying to justify this “atrocious” practice”. The author goes on to juxtapose between the MP’s words and factual reality, that he did not mention the “well-established scientific communities” that do not consider a foetus of 12 weeks to be a living baby. The writer also conveys their opinion in terms such as “… who believe that life begins at conception”, implying that not everyone believes such a thing and that it is contrary to their own belief. The author continues to provide evidence that contradicts the words stated by pro-life individuals, stating that most countries allowing abortion only allow it until the foetus is 12 weeks old or in cases of rape or incest, and that some allow it only when the mother’s life is in danger. The author expresses their disappointment in the Maltese legislation, by stating that women in Malta have no option to seek out abortion in any sort of crisis or emergency.
Article 2 is derived from lovinmalta.com, titled “Maltese Youths Make an Official Call for Discussion on Abortion”. The article by Tim Diacono shows his pro-choice opinion throughout the article, where terminology such as “broken free from the confines of local politics” is used; implying that he himself thinks that local politics are limiting and confined. Diacono moves on to express his opinion regarding an anti-abortion film shown in Maltese schools, labelling it as “graphic”. The fact that schools are showing young children this “graphic” film shows that traditional, Catholic beliefs are hard to shake from the Maltese influencers, who are doing their utmost to shape young people’s opinions regarding abortion – furthering the idea that abortion is a “taboo” topic. Diacono’s choices of quotations from the youths also show that he agrees with the message they are trying to convey, and that the message needs to be spread across the media, so that people can form their own opinions, rather the ones that are indoctrinated into their minds at school.
Article 3 is from the Times of Malta, titled “Only Malta and Andorra prohibit abortion under any circumstances”, written by Sarah Carabott. The article is accompanied by an image of women protesting and fighting for their rights to abortion. Carabott commences the article by stating that the prohibition of abortion at all costs has negative effects on women. The author uses terms such as “laws that forbid women’s access…”, the use of such harsh, negative words conveys her disapproval towards the idea that women are not given the free choice regarding their own pregnancy unless they are in danger. She goes on to juxtapose between Malta and Andorra – the two countries who do not allow abortion under any circumstance, to countries that allow it under certain conditions such as rape, risk of life, abuse, and other cases. She continues to explain the negative feelings a woman would feel following abortion, because in countries like Malta, there are little to no places where a woman can seek care post-abortion. Carabott herself provides suggestions in her article, in order to help women avoid the need for abortion, since it is locally criminalised. This shows that she does not discriminate against women who need, or have had abortions, but rather, would like to help the situation for them to change into one where help is easily accessible.
Article 4 is written by Ann Dingli on the website of lovinmalta.com. The article is titled “Is Abortion Next? BBC Forecasts Malta’s Next National Debate”. Dingli shows agreement with the BBC article regarding Malta’s paradox of being modern and yet traditional in its beliefs. She goes on to question the fact that Malta is the only Member of the European Union that where a complete ban on abortion still stands, as well as laws surrounding the topic remain strict while the topic is still a taboo amongst locals. She evokes a neutral stance, towards the end of her article, providing both comments for and against the introduction of abortion in the country.