Italian investigative journalist Paolo Borrometi, the recipient of journalism award Il Premiolino 2018 – given to journalists who risk their lives to seek truth – dedicated the award to journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia, Andrea Rocchelli and Giulio Regeni who were all killed because of their work.
The Italian multi award winning journalist lives under police escort because of death threats he received related to his investigations into the mafia. When dedicating the award to the other journalists, he said: “There is no justice without truth and expecting the truth is the only duty we have”.
Regeni was an Italian Cambridge University graduate who was abducted and tortured to death in Egypt. His mutilated and half-naked corpse was found in a ditch on the outskirts of Cairo in February, 2016. His recovered body showed signs of extreme torture.
Rocchelli was an Italian freelance photojournalist who was killed in Andreyevka in eastern Ukraine on May 24, 2014, while reporting on the war. He had documented the Arab Spring in Libya and Tunisia, the violation of human rights in Kyrgyzstan, the conditions of migrants in southern Italy and organised crime. His death is being investigated by the Italian authorities.
The sister of Caruana Galizia, assassinated on 16 October in a car bomb a few metres outside her home, was also present at the ceremony on Wednesday. She said: “If we only focus on journalists who are threatened, we miss the bigger picture. We need to look at systems of protection and close the gaps there. We know that bringing criminals to justice makes journalists’ work safer and that systemic impunity raises the risks. Impunity creates a situation where attacking journalists is normalised”.
Borrometi’s investigations on the mafia linked Malta and the southern Italian regions. He has repeatedly expressed his gratitude to Caruana Galizia who was among the first people to contact him to offer support when his life was threatened.
He referred to the threat of an attack with a car (interepted by police) as “one of the hardest moments of his life”.
On Twitter, after Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini questioned the necessity of police escorts for another investigative journalist – Roberto Saviano – Borrometi expressed solidarity with Saviano and stressed the point that living under police escort was “not a privilege”. Saviano in fact defined Salvini’s comments as a threat.
The wave of populism across Europe has led to an increasing number of politicians who are discrediting and threatening journalists, putting their lives at risk.
Attacks on journalists followed also in Slovakia where the latest attempt to limit press freedom was the government’s limit on coverage of Parliament. Meanwhile, Czech president Miloš Zeman, joked with his Russian counterpart Putin that journalists should be “liquidated”.
More recently, and a few days after Slovak’s journalist Jan Kuciak’s murder, Zeman again attacked the media during his inaugural speech in March.
The media is also regularly a target of Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister. “We are up against media outlets maintained by foreign concerns and domestic oligarchs, professional hired activists, troublemaking protest organisers, and a chain of NGOs financed by an international speculator, summed up by and embodied in the name George Soros”, Orban said.
The line that those critical of the government are traitors is a familiar line in Malta. The secret Labour hate groups exposed by The Shift News are an example of strategically organised groups that are there for the purpose of serving the political Party in government by disseminating disinformation and creating scapegoats with the blessing of the Party leader and Prime Minister who remains a member of these groups.