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Misleading media reports draw international criticism

General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists stunned at misleading media reports in Malta toeing the government line.

ricardo gutierrez European Federation of Journalists

The General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) countered reports by the mainstream media in Malta that claimed the Council of Europe had “ruled out further action” on investigations on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The reports pubished on Tuesday were in line with a post on social media by the government’s head of communications Kurt Farrugia that referred to confidence in Maltese authorities, adding that at the international level “no further measures taken” within the Council of Europe debate.

What he failed to say was that he was referring to an answer prepared by members of the Maltese government, and the media that regurgitated that line failed to realise this or take into account the fact that 114 MPs from across the political spectrum have demanded further investigation.

The misleading reports, with headlines reading ‘Council of Europe expresses confidence in Maltese authorities over slain journalist investigation‘ and ‘CoE ministerial body rules out further action on murder,’ stunned the General Secretary Secretary of the EFJ, Ricardo Gutiérrez, as well as other journalists and diplomats in debates on social media among those who could not comprehend why the Maltese media repeated Farrugia’s “case-closed” message.

The EFJ is Europe’s largest organisation of journalists, representing about 320,000 journalists across 43 countries.

Along with at least 10 other international media freedom organisations, it supported a motion for a resolution in the Council’s parliamentary assembly (PACE) that calls on the international community to investigate the context of the crime and monitor the ongoing murder investigation.

The misleading reports were based on a short reply to a question asked by Dutch Parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.

Omtzigt asked whether the Committee of Ministers was planning to request formal explanations from the Maltese government on “its police force’s failure to investigate evidence of money laundering by government officials and their relatives, on its failure to adequately protect Caruana Galizia and on the protection it intends to afford to the relevant whistleblowers”.

The response from the Committee of Ministers, which is written by diplomatic officials from Council of Europe member states, said that since Caruana Galizia was assassinated, the Maltese representation has twice provided information on steps taken by the Maltese authorities and on results achieved.

The Committee’s response was based solely on this information provided by governing party MPs, including Manuel Mallia, Etienne Grech, Rosianne Cutajar and Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi.

The Committee’s response was based solely on this information provided by governing party MPs, including Manuel Mallia, Etienne Grech, Rosianne Cutajar and Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi

The media reports failed to consider that 114 MPs from across the political spectrum have demanded further investigation into the journalist’s assassination as well as rule of law failings in the country that enabled it. A rapporteur will be appointed with a two year mandate.

This is the third time in the Council’s history that a special rapporteur is being appointed to investigate a political assassination, and the first time that one is being appointed to investigate an assassination in an EU member state.

The only other two special rapporteurs were assigned to investigate State involvement in the assassination of two Russian citizens: Boris Nemtsov, then the main opposition leader and critic of Vladimir Putin, and Sergei Magnitsky, the anti-corruption lawyer whose death while in State custody led to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

“There’s no alternative,” the journalist’s son, Matthew Caruana Galizia, said on Facebook. “The mandate given by parliamentarians from all over Europe is loud and clear”.

This was backed by Gutiérrez who said that parliamentary assembly’s resolution was “loud and clear” and “strongly supported by the European Federation of Journalists”.

Caruana Galizia’s sons – Matthew, Andrew and Paul – criticised the misleading reports in the media in a statement, saying that it was a mistake for the Maltese government “to celebrate anything it perceives as passivity from the international community when it comes to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.”

They echoed the concerns of citizens in Malta still calling for justice six months after her assassination, saying that “the world is shocked by what happened” and that it “will never look at Malta the same way again—not until we, as a country, confront head on the criminal forces that have usurped the State”.

The first step was to acknowledge the problem with corruption and impunity and the fact that Malta’s institutions lack the independence and capacity to do anything about it, they added.

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