Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it regretted that Magistrate Anthony Vella, who is in charge of the inquiry on the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s, is to be removed from the case because of “an unrequested promotion”.
The international organisation that works to promote the reinforcement of international regulations governing the safety of journalists, said in a statement that it fears this will delay the inquiry’s progress.
“The promotion of Anthony Vella, a magistrate who was determined to pursue this inquiry until the end, comes at the worst possible time for the case and threatens to delay the investigation into Caruana Galizia’s murder even more,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
The inquiry into the murder of Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a bomb placed under her car on 16 October 2017, is far from completion. RSF said it has confirmed that Vella will be removed from the case very soon. The name of his successor is not yet known.
“As the authorities are supposed to provide all the resources needed to facilitate the proceedings, this promotion can only cast doubt on their real intentions,” Deloire added.
The head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk, Pauline Adès-Mével, said that when she met Vella and his team in Malta on 17 April, he told her he was determined to personally complete the investigation.
“The magistrate in charge of the investigation has clearly demonstrated his commitment to establishing the truth, as many people familiar with the case have confirmed,” Adès-Mével said.
Three suspects were arrested in December but none of the people involved in preparing and carrying out the murder have so far been identified and detained.
The investigation into this sensitive case began badly, RSF said. The first magistrate to be assigned to the case “was known for her hostility towards Caruana Galizia”, the organisation said with reference to Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera.
“She quickly recused himself, making way for Vella to take over. Now, nearly eight months after the murder, a third magistrate will have to assimilate all of the case’s many elements,” RSF said.
Malta is ranked 65th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, 18 places lower than in the 2017 Index.