Justice minister Owen Bonnici’s “destructive actions” in constantly ordering the removal of the Valletta memorial for murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is damaging the country’s reputation, PEN International said.
The organisation said Bonnici’s response to the NGOs open letter about the repeated destruction of the protest memorial failed to address their concerns about rights to freedom of expression in Malta.
The letter, which was signed by PEN International, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, the European Federation of Journalists, the International Press Institute, and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), expressed their concerns at the government’s constant efforts to clear the candles and flowers laid at the monument.
The “unusually hostile stance” of the government in repeatedly clearing the peaceful memorial, which calls for those who ordered Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination to be brought to justice , has frightening implications for freedom of expression and association in Malta, according to PEN International.
“By continually destroying the candles, flowers and messages left by those calling for an end to impunity in this case – the handling of which has raised major concerns about the rule of law in Malta – we are concerned that the authorities are perpetuating intolerance and contributing to a climate of hate towards an assassinated journalist, a concern we raised during our meeting with the Prime Minister and Bonnici,” they said.
Unlike what he stated in the letter, this peaceful protest for justice wasnot an ‘activity’ restricted to a number of hours or days. Until such time as those who commissioned the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia are brought to justice, this peaceful protest must be protected.
These destructive actions by the Justice Ministry further tarnished Malta’s standing as a member of the EU and the broader international community. “We will continue to raise these concerns relating to freedom of expression and assembly in Malta with the relevant international authorities”.
PEN International reiterated their call on the Maltese government to uphold and fulfil its stated commitment to freedom of expression and association in practice by ensuring that the peaceful protest monument remains as long as people wish to honour the memory of, and call for justice for Caruana Galizia.