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‘Focus on the cause, not the symptom’ – Reporters Without Borders UK bureau chief

Rebecca Vincent says harassment and abuse are symptoms of a much larger disease: continued impunity for the assassination of a journalist nearly two years on.

Reporters Without Borders + Daphne Caruana Galizia
Rebecca Vincent, Reporters Without Borders, paying tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia on the anniversary of her death in Malta in October 2018. Photo: Pierre Ellul

Attention should be focussed on how to achieve justice for assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in a climate where shortcomings in the areas of press freedom, broader human rights, democracy and rule of law have now been well documented by international bodies, the UK bureau chief of Reporters Without Borders said.

Speaking to The Shift after she was called a “bitch” at the protest memorial in Valletta dedicated to Caruana Galizia, Vincent commented on the attention the incident drew saying she felt frustrated that it took this happening to a foreigner to get significant attention.

“The harassment I faced at the protest memorial for Daphne Caruana Galizia yesterday was really nothing in comparison to what local journalists, activists, and members of the Caruana Galizia family experience on a daily basis in Malta,” she said, adding that there should be “outrage” in response to the abuse suffered every day by people working persistently for justice for the journalist in Malta.

Justice must remain the focus, Vincent said, raising the importance of an independent public inquiry into the journalist’s assassination. “This is the point on which we need support – the cause, not the mere symptom of me being sworn at on Monday in Valletta.”

“In light of the clear deficiencies in the criminal investigation, we believe an independent public inquiry is essential to understanding what happened to Daphne, whether it could have been prevented, and what lessons can be drawn to protect journalists continuing to work in Malta,” Vincent added.

The international press freedom organisation’s UK bureau chief said it was “deeply disturbing how emboldened a certain element of society feels” in lashing out as those men did towards her. But such harassment and abuse are symptoms of a much larger disease: continued impunity for the assassination of a journalist nearly two years on, she added.

“They do so as if it’s perfectly acceptable behaviour, but it’s really not – not here, not anywhere, in person or online. But they know that ultimately nothing will happen to them for being verbally or physically aggressive. This is clear when some government officials and other politicans use similar language themselves, without consequence.”

Citizens expressed support for what Vincent faced, as the incident sparked outrage on social media. Yet, she has also contined to face attacks, with comments on social media praising the “patriots who defended Malta” and saying the human rights defender should “go back to her country”.

Reporters Without Borders has been working in coordination with the Caruana Galizia family, their legal team, and a large group of supporting international NGOs in advocating the immediate launch of an independent public inquiry since last year.

“Now our call for an independent public inquiry has been given more weight, as in June, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe set a three-month time limit for the Maltese government to launch an inquiry. As of today, there are 36 days left,” Vincent said, adding that the organisation will continue to act to hold the Maltese government accountable for complying with this deadline.

The Council of Europe must also be held to account for ensuring Malta’s compliance as a Member State, the organisation said.

Petra Caruana Dingli at The Shift News

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