Marking World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, PEN International has voiced its concern to international institutions on threats to defenders of human rights calling for justice following the assassination of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and those working to defend and pursue the scandals she exposed.
“On World Press Freedom Day, we reiterate our concerns regarding the investigation by the Maltese authorities into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, which PEN believe does not meet the standards of independence, impartiality and effectiveness required under international human rights law,” the organisation said.
PEN is a worldwide writers’ association with 145 centres in more than 100 countries working to defend those whose human right to freedom of expression is at risk.
“PEN also urges EU member states to do their utmost to protect journalists and human rights defenders in Malta and to urge the Maltese authorities to do everything in their power to bring all individuals involved in the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia to justice,” PEN said in a statement.
PEN referred to senior officials within the office of Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who recently implied that Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew Caruana Galizia, himself a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, colluded with his mother’s killers. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is also pursuing a libel case against him.
In addition, Martina Urso, a civil society activist from the anti-corruption group Il-Kenniesa, has also been subject to a torrent of misogynistic abuse – including from members of the Maltese administration and the Artistic Director of Valletta 18, Mario Philip Azzopardi, following her participation in a civil society protest in London on 20 April. Urso was subjected to hundreds of online threats, and her ID card and home address were leaked “from a reportedly fake Facebook account” and shared online.
The threat of a financially crippling SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuit against The Shift News by Henley & Partners was also included among PEN International’s concerns.
“The Shift News, an independent media outlet launched after Caruana Galizia’s assassination which has pursued a number of her stories, is currently facing the threat of a financially crippling SLAPP [lawsuit] from the Jersey-based firm Henley & Partners, who had taken legal proceedings against Daphne Caruana Galizia prior to her death,” PEN International said.
Recently, PEN wrote an open letter to the European Commission – signed by the world’s most renowned authors including Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Elif Shafak and Ian McEwan – calling for the resignation of Chairman of the Valletta 2018 Foundation Jason Micallef.
PEN has called on citizens to take action (details here).