European Federation of Journalists

Malta responsible for Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death

Picture credit: Stringer / AFP.

A public inquiry into the assassination of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has found the state responsible for her death. The report said the state had failed to recognise risks to the reporter’s life and take reasonable steps to avoid them.The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) calls on the Maltese authorities to prosecute all those responsible and to implement the recommendations of the report without delay.

Daphne Caruana Galizia died in a car bomb attack near her home on 16 October 2017. An investigation led to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat‘s resignation in 2019 after his close associates were implicated.

In a 437-page report, the inquiry concluded that a culture of impunity was created from the highest echelons of power in Malta. The report singled out former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for enabling this culture of impunity and found his entire cabinet collectively responsible for their inaction in the lead up to the assassination. “The state should shoulder responsibility for the assassination,” retired judge Michael Mallia, former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Madam Justice Abigail Lofaro said in their report.

While the inquiry did not find proof of government involvement in the assassination, it created a “favourable climate” for anyone seeking to eliminate her to do so with the minimum of consequences. According to the conclusions, the state failed to recognise the real and immediate risks to Caruana Galizia’s life. It also failed to take reasonable steps to avoid these risks.

“We are not surprised by the findings of this report, which only confirms our suspicions,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “Daphne Caruana Galizia was an embarrassment to those in power in Malta. A coalition of political and economic interests created the conditions for her assassination. We demand that all those responsible be prosecuted. We also call on the Maltese authorities to immediately implement the recommendations of the report.”

In particular, the EFJ welcomes the following recommendations:

  • The state must formally and publicly admit the serious shortcomings of the administration surrounding the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia;
  • The police and all other regulatory authorities must continue investigations to identify all persons in any way involved in the murder and ensure that they are all accountable to the courts;
  • It is essential that laws ensure that anyone in breach must suffer the consequences of their actions, and must not use money to brush over issues (the report said this was a “prevailing mentality in society which reinforces the arrogance of the possessor political and economic power. It is the seed that has spawned corruption”);
  • The police must work to provide better protection and identify those who are at serious risk. In the case of journalists, this means timely and effective investigations. A formal ad-hoc structure in the Police Force should be created to address these concerns. This should be a specialised unit with trained people able to identify which persons are at risk (…). The unit should also have a specialised section dealing specifically with journalists, acting as the first point of contact to deal with safety concerns;
  • Police must also value journalistic work as a key contributor in the fight against crime – and must promptly and effectively investigate allegations made by a journalist. The report said that had they done so, the risk to Caruana Galizia’s life would have been greatly reduced;
  • The Corps must also have an understanding of the role of the journalist as a guardian of democracy in the country and the value of journalism as a valid collaborator with law enforcement to ensure the rule of law;
  • Police must create bridges and a means of contact between themselves and journalists to help them continue their investigations and verify the serious allegations in journalist’s investigations;
  • The Constitution must be amended to recognise that free journalism is one of the pillars of a democratic society and that the State must guarantee and protect it;
  • An independent Commissioner of Journalistic Ethics should be created to implement laws and regulations designed to protect the freedom of the media, the safety of journalists, and the right to information;
  • A code of ethics for journalists should also be established;
  • The constitutional provisions establishing the Broadcasting Authority must be amended, with the report noting that the public service broadcaster failed in its duty to impartial reporting when it did not correctly report on serious allegations on corruption;
  • The Freedom of Information Act must be revised to limit the cases in which the government arbitrarily refuses to provide information that is of interest. “The culture of confidentiality and secrecy under the pretext of privacy or commercial prejudice has little to do with democracy when it comes to the administration of the common good which must always be transparent and accountable,” the report said;
  • SLAPP suits must be addressed by the government, and ensure that libel suits do not continue after one’s death;
  • The report made reference to the precarious financial situations within Media Houses and how many depend on government advertising. The funds, the report says, must be distributed in a fair, equitable, and non-discriminatory manner;
  • Laws must be introduced to reflect the important role the media plays in a democratic society and ensure the profession is self-regulated;
  • A holistic and organic framework aimed at improving the journalistic profession should be introduced – along with protections that will be enshrined in the Constitution.

“We welcome the fact that Prime Minister Robert Abela has pledged to do everything possible to strengthen the journalistic profession and to embark on a number of reforms to ensure the safety of journalists”, added Gutiérrez.

“Journalism needs to be given space to flourish,” Abela said in Parliament during an emergency debate about the findings of the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. “Scrutiny is important. If you don’t want to be scrutinised you shouldn’t be a public figure. If as a country we don’t understand this we would have learned nothing.”