Council of Europe recommendations to improve the safety of journalists still have to be implemented in Malta even though these were signed in April 2016.
This concern was highlighted by the sister of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Corinne Vella, last week during the third sitting of the public inquiry into her assassination. The murder was carried out a year and a half after these recommendations were signed.
The recommendations “on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors” were adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 13 April 2016.
The extensive suggestions within the report include 24-hour emergency contact points, police protection for journalists, and aggravated penalties to public officials who neglect, prevent or obstruct investigations on crimes against journalists, amongst other measures.
The guidelines of the recommendations were put in place “to meet the many-faceted challenge of ensuring the effective protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors, which necessitates coherent, complementary strategies by member states,” according to the report.
The report goes on to offer detailed guidance to each member state on how to fulfill their relevant obligations “combining legal, administrative and practical measures.” The guidelines are organised into four pillars: prevention, protection, prosecution (including a specific focus on impunity) and promotion of information, education, and awareness-raising.
Last October, The European Federation of Journalists called on the EU to push its member states to fully implement the 2016 Recommendations. “Every single government of the 28 members states of the EU signed it, three years ago, but not a single one fully implemented it,” said Ricardo Gutiérrez the General Secretary.
It was not the first time that Gutiérrez called for the government to implement the Council of Europe Recommendation on the protection of journalists. According to local media reports, in 2018, he also highlighted his concern and asked the government to stick to comply with its own commitments.
Similarly, following the assassination of Caruana Galizia, another list of recommendations was made for Malta to implement, however, Council of Europe Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt noted that only one recommendation was implemented.
In her testimony at the public inquiry, Vella described in detail the environment for journalists in Malta within which Caruana Galizia was working. “They did not acknowledge her as a journalist even though, what she uncovered, had implications for the health of the country,” she had said about her sister. “The state does not support investigative journalists.”
The CoE report makes clear the obligations of authorities in the prosecution process following attacks on journalists, stating they “have an obligation to take all necessary steps to bring the perpetrators of crimes against journalists and other media actors to justice, whether they are State actors or not. Investigations and prosecutions should consider all of the different – actual and potential – roles in these crimes, such as authors, instigators, perpetrators and accomplices, and the criminal liability that arises from each of those roles.” It also states that the respective governments are “obliged to ensure the integrity of court proceedings” and that “effective and appropriate remedies to victims and their families” are ensured.