Independence from Britain was achieved in 1964, after the Maltese people were awarded the George Cross for defending the island during World War II.
Forty years on Malta was the smallest of the 10 countries to join the EU in May 2004. It joined the eurozone in 2008.
Malta has been shaped by centuries of foreign rule
Since becoming an EU member, the tiny island has reported an increasing problem with immigration from north Africa and has requested more help to deal with it. The UN refugee agency has criticised the island's policy of keeping asylum seekers in detention for 18 months.
Over the centuries, Malta's strategic position fostered its development as an important trading post and it remains a leading centre for container and freight transhipment.
Malta is a popular holiday destination and tourism is the nation's main source of income.
Many of Malta's newspapers and broadcasters have strong political affiliations. Dailies and weeklies appear in Maltese and English.
Maltese radio began in the mid-1930s, partly to counter Fascist propaganda broadcasts from Italy. Malta Television launched in 1962, five years after the islanders started receiving TV signals from Italy. Italian channels remain popular.
The first private broadcasting licences were granted to the two major political parties and the Catholic Church. More stations followed and there is now a proliferation of privately-run radio stations and several TV channels.
Since Malta is a member of the Council of Europe, media laws are based on European law.
Cable TV was introduced in 1992 and satellite TV is widely-watched. More than 240,000 Maltese were online by mid-2010 (Internetworldstats).
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.