The Maltese Ambassador to Austria gave an impassioned speech on media freedom in Malta but did not mention the assassination of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017, or the government’s failure to deliver answers.
During a working session at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2019, Ambassador Natasha Meli Daudey spoke of changes to the law, the “extended fundamental rights” of citizens, ‘increased protection for journalists’, and the government’s commitment to a “wide and fully engaged democracy” and more “freedom of expression”.
There was no mention of Caruana Galizia or the public inquiry requested by the Council of Europe, and the government’s failings in this regard. There was also no mention of the government’s concerted attempts to silence critical voices in the country.
At an international meeting on human rights, the Maltese government made a grand speech about freedom of expression without mentioning my mum once.
This is nothing but mafia-style omertà. If there are no victims, there are no perpetrators. https://t.co/Nl9DQfeSME
— Matthew Caruana Galizia (@mcaruanagalizia) September 17, 2019
Caruana Galizia’s son, Matthew, pointed this out on social media, saying that “at an international meeting on human rights, the Maltese government made a grand speech about freedom of expression without mentioning my mum once. This is nothing but mafia-style omerta. If there are no victims, there are no perpetrators.”
His statement was echoed by press freedom organisations, including IFEX consultant Sophie Busson, who called out the fact that Malta’s discourse on media freedom failed to mention the assassination of a journalist.
@MaltaEmbVienna parle de son action sur la liberté d’expression à #Malte mais ne dit pas un mot sur le meurtre de la journaliste #DaphneCaruanaGalizia ni sur la mise en place de l’enquête publique demandée par le @coe qui n’est toujours pas mise en place ! #HDIM2019 pic.twitter.com/j2qcN2lcQx
— Sophie Busson (@Sophie_Busson) September 17, 2019
Committee to Protect Journalists advocate Tom Gibson noted the “grave concern” that judicial proceedings had not resulted in the perpetrators or the masterminds being brought to justice. He called for a full assessment of the circumstances surrounding Caruana Galizia’s assassination and whether the State could have prevented it.
“Critical journalists on the ground need protection, and her family needs justice,” he said, reiterating the demand for an independent public inquiry to be established within the three-month time frame requested by the Council of Europe.
Malta’s ambassador responded to Gibson’s statement with the government line that “50 days after the murder, three men were arrested”, adding that they were indicted in July of this year. Close to two years after Caruana Galizia’s death, no date has been set for the start of the trial against those charged with carrying out her murder. And despite assertions by “police sources” that they were hot on the heels of the masterminds, there is absolutely no indication that this information was anything more than government spin.
Meli claimed the government was “actively engaged with the Council of Europe to hold an inquiry that will not prejudice or conflict the current court proceedings”, despite a clear statement from the European watchdog that the government’s line was a distraction.
Meli also claimed that Malta has never “stood against the inquiry” and that the only challenge related to when it should start. Yet Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt had made it clear in a statement that “a public inquiry would not impinge on the criminal investigation”.
As the CoE’s deadline of 26 September draws closer, there is a concern that if an inquiry is launched within the requested time frame, it may not meet the necessary standards of impartiality.
Omtizgt stated very clearly that it is not enough for the Maltese government to say it would abide by the three-month deadline set in the report by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). It must ensure that the public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is “truly independent”.