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Press freedom a major concern in UN review of human rights in Malta

Human Rights Council, Geneva
Human Rights Council, Geneva. Photo: Jean-Marc Ferre

PEN International has highlighted concerns on four main areas related to press freedom ahead of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which will take place on 14 November.

The international organisation, in a coalition with a number of international organisations, highlighted four key areas: safety of journalists and the issue of impunity for violence and the killing of journalists; legislative restrictions on freedom of expression freedom of information and the lack of media pluralism.

“Since 2013, the climate for freedom of expression has deteriorated significantly in Malta, in particular in the lead up to and aftermath of the assassination of… Daphne Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2017. The threats and violence Caruana Galizia was subjected to in the course of her life and [in the] lead up to her assassination were tolerated with impunity by the Maltese authorities,” according to PEN International.

The submissions ahead of the UN review were made by ARTICLE 19, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Press Institute (IPI) and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), as well as PEN International.

It focuses on Malta’s compliance with international human rights obligations with respect to freedom of expression (Article 19) and, in relation to the killing of journalists and the issue of impunity, the investigative duty under the right to life (Article 6) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Malta is a State party.

“The tolerance of the authorities for this violence, and ultimately the assassination with impunity of such an important freedom of expression figure demonstrates key violations of freedom of expression in Malta since the last review and has profound implications for the right to freedom of expression of Malta as a whole,” according to the submission.

Malta experienced the sharpest drop in press freedom of all 180 countries covered by the 2018 Reporter Without Borders World Press Freedom Index. Malta also received the steepest score in The Economist’s Democracy Index.

PEN International stressed the need for a public inquiry, saying freedom of expression in Malta has deteriorated significantly in the lead up to and aftermath of Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

“With respect to her murder, the coalition urges UN member states to recommend that Malta establishes a public inquiry into the killing of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia to probe whether her death could have been prevented and to learn lessons for the future,” the organisation said in a statement.

The government has so far done its best to avoid it, even telling the BBC that it was unnecessary.

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