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‘If following the law is an innovation, it would be an innovation here’

Matthew Caruana Galizia speaks at the Global Conference on Media Freedom in London calling for increased protection of journalists.

Matthew Caruana Galizia

“When my mother was murdered it was because there was no one else within the apparatus of the State to defend the rule of law,” the son of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia said at the Global Media Conference on Media Freedom launched by the Canadian and British government in London today.

Matthew took part in a panel entitled ‘Innovation to end journalist murders’. He spoke alongside Leon Williams, Director of Free Press Unlimited; Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director at Committee to Protect Journalists,; Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur; Flutura Kusari, legal counsel for the ECMPF; Ashmita Pokharel, Legal Officer at Freedom Forum, and Major General Saad Maan from Iraq’s Interior Ministry.

Panellists spoke about the impunity that so often surrounds the murder of journalists, the need for innovation to improve the international legal infrastructure, and mechanisms to ensure that freedom of the press prevails.

Matthew said that it was “imperative” that Malta institutes an independent Article 2 ECHR public inquiry before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (CoE) three-month deadline is up.

“If you want to call following the law an innovation, well it would be an innovation here,” he said, referring to the situation in Malta. He reiterated the important role of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other CoE member states in holding Malta to account.

“We cannot have business as usual. That is the approach these States took before, and then my mother was murdered.”

He said Malta’s case was important for the CoE: “If we are to call for justice in other cases, such as that of Jamal Khashoggi, we need the authority to make demands as a result of cases by Member States, being resolved”.

“If Malta gets away with not respecting the European Convention on Human Rights, how can we speak with authority on other abuses?”

Callamard agreed, saying that States need to stand up to bullies.

Before taking the stage, Matthew tweeted that while he was speaking at a media freedom conference, his father was being forced to “waste his time in Malta’s broken court system”. 

He was referring to the fact that his father Peter was, at the same time, defending 19 posthumous libel suits filed against his mother for a “single, factually correct blog post” filed by Silvio Debono, “One of Muscat’s campaign donors who is one of the most corrupt people in Malta”.

He also spoke of the fact his mother’s murder did not come as a surprise to their immediate family as they were “long worried it would happen as she was the only one to challenge the corrupt culture of Malta”.

Matthew said, “the situation is getting worse”, referring to The Shift News founder Caroline Muscat. “She has effectively taken my mother’s place,” he said. The warning was retweeted by international press freedom organisations.

As well as facing threats of SLAPP suits, various libel cases from government-linked individuals, cyber attacks on The Shift News website, and online harassment, Muscat has been targeted by the same Labour Party Facebook hate groups that she exposed during an investigation. Labour Party loyalists and government employees compared her to Daphne Caruana Galizia and said she deserved “more bombs“.

When asked whether the conference by the British and Canadian governments was just another PR exercise, Matthew said, “it’s better than nothing”. It was a rare opportunity to address decision-makers.

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