The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, raised the “urgent need” to conclude the investigation into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia with Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela ahead of the Global Conference for Media Freedom in London.
On social media, Desir highlighted his “important” meeting with Abela where the OSCE Representative also raised the issue of the posthumous libel cases against the journalist being pursued by government officials, including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. He also referred to calls for an independent public inquiry.
In his annual report presented last week, Desir referred to press freedom issues in Malta.
Important meeting today with @MFAMalta @AbelaCarmelo. We discussed urgent need to conclude investigation into assassination of #DaphneCaruanaGalizia, to ensure #noimpunity; also I raised ongoing problem of inherited defamation cases by her family, and calls for public inquiry pic.twitter.com/GSijBKVzZ5
— OSCE media freedom (@OSCE_RFoM) July 8, 2019
The Foreign Affairs Minister referred to the “exchange of views” with Desir in a statement on his meetings en route to the OSCE meeting in Slovakia. Abela spoke of “Malta’s continual committment to safeguard the right to freedom of expression and on its readiness to continue engaging with his Office in supporting the strengthening of the protection of journalists as well as the safeguarding of freedom of expression and of the media”.
Press freedom in Malta will be debated at a two-day global conference in London on Wednesday and Thursday that will examine the challenges facing media freedom and the opportunities for a safer environment for journalists.
Chrystia Freeland, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Jeremy Hunt, the UK Foreign Secretary, are co-hosting the event that brings together over 1,000 guests, including government ministers and officials, the diplomatic community, international agencies, journalists, civil society and academics.
The late Maltese journalist’s sons, Matthew Caruana Galizia and Paul Caruana Galizia, will be participating in separate debates. Matthew joins UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, among others, on one of the main panel debates addressing ‘Innovation to End Journalist Murders’.
Paul joins Callamard at a debate hosted by London law firm Doughty Street Chambers on Tuesday to discuss accountability for journalists’ murders from Jamal Khashoggi to Caruana Galizia.
To mark @foreignoffice #DefendMediaFreedom week, we are hosting UNSR @AgnesCallamard for event on accountability for journalist murders from #Khashoggi to #DaphneCaruanaGalizia w/ @pcaruanagalizia, @caoilfhionnanna QC @suigenerisjen. @MarksLarks chairing https://t.co/LUzhQCg3zm pic.twitter.com/bYg0UM8bZz
— Doughty Street Int'l (@DoughtyStIntl) July 8, 2019
Matthew, Paul and Andrew Caruana Galizia said assurances must be sought from the Maltese government that it complies with international obligations on media and press freedoms and the investigation into the assassination of their late mother.
In their written submission ahead of the conference, they cited the commitment from the UK Foreign Office statement in 2018 to ensure the safety of journalists and the free press because “hard evidence shows a striking overlap between the countries with the least corruption and the countries with the freest media”.
Amal Clooney, the international human rights barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, has been appointed by Jeremy Hunt to act as the foreign secretary’s special envoy on media freedom as part of his campaign to highlight assaults and restrictions on journalists globally. She will also chair a high-level panel of legal experts on the issue that will examine legal and policy initiatives that States can adopt.
Last year was the deadliest year yet for journalists, with 99 killed, 348 detained and 80 taken hostage by non-State groups.
“It has never been more dangerous to report the news. Targeting journalists undermines democracy and impedes our ability to hold the powerful to account and it allows countless human rights abuses to take place in the dark. Those with a pen in their hand should not feel a noose round their neck,” Clooney said.
Ahead of the conference, the UK announced £18 million (over €20 million) to counter disinformation across eastern Europe and to strengthen independent media in the western Balkans.