There has been a notable lack of credible indications that the Maltese authorities are diligently investigating whoever planned and commissioned the killing of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, a report issued by the Council of Europe states.
The report, titled ‘Democracy at risk: Threats and attacks against media freedom in Europe’, highlights that the task of properly investigating who the mastermind behind Caruana Galizia’s murder calls for a thorough and impartial examination of leads arising from the journalist’s reporting on high-level financial crimes and other forms of wrongdoing, which often implicated leading political and business figures.
The 12 partner organisations penning the report, which include organisations such as PEN International, Reporters Without Borders and the European Broadcasting Union, wrote of their “acute concern” that a climate of impunity has started to take hold in parts of Europe, saying that this was evidenced by the poor record of some Council of Europe member states in investigating and punishing crimes of violence and other serious crimes against journalists.
The organisations were “especially alarmed” at the “lack of substantial progress in identifying and bringing to justice the instigators or masterminds of recent murders and suspected murders of journalists in the Council of Europe area”. They cited the murders of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey; Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová in Slovakia; Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta; and Pavel Sheremet in Ukraine as examples of this.
The murders of Caruana Galizia and of Kuciak and his fiancée have dramatically raised public and official awareness in the EU of the twin crisis of journalist safety and impunity that has already taken root within the bloc as well as in other parts of the Council of Europe area, the report read.
The partner organisations also took aim at laws that “threaten to criminalise journalist’ work” noting that defamation still carries a risk of imprisonment in more than half of the Council of Europe member states.
They cite Malta’s decision to repeal its criminal defamation law as progress, but note that journalists continued to be sued by government officials for defamation, despite the fact that public officials and politicians must display a greater degree of tolerance toward criticism.
In fact, they cite Malta as an example of a country where there is a “deep structural injustice”, noting that over 30 defamation lawsuits against Caruana Galizia instituted before her death remain pending. The continued pursuit of many of those cases by the plaintiffs, including government officials, illustrates this deep structural injustice.
Original article found on The Malta Independent