Robert Abela’s nomination of former minister Konrad Mizzi to head Malta’s delegation to the OSCE assembly was “incomprehensible and disturbing”, the organisation’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, told The Shift.
News of Mizzi’s nomination on Monday evening was met with immediate anger and calls for a protest to be held in Malta. The government announced the withdrawal of the decision hours later, saying it was “giving absolute priority to good governance”. Yet the protests will go ahead on Wednesday.
The Shift asked the OSCE’S Representative on Freedom of the Media for a reaction to the nomination. “We cannot comment on nominations, but it would certainly have been incomprehensible and disturbing in the current situation,” Désir said.
Mizzi was the minister who negotiated and signed the controversial Electrogas energy deal, linked to the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia through revelations on Yorgen Fenech, former Head of Tumas Group, director of Electrogas and the main suspect in Caruana Galizia’s murder.
“It is of the utmost importance that the trial on the assassination of Caruana Galizia sheds light on all circumstances surrounding this horrendous crime that aimed to stop her investigation in a corruption scheme. There must be no impunity for such a crime. This remains our first priority,” the OSCE’S Representative on Freedom of the Media added.
The OSCE, an intergovernmental organisation with a mandate that includes issues such as press freedom and human rights, has already expressed concern on these issues in Malta.
Désir had travelled to Malta to attend Caruana Galizia’s funeral. Since then, he has insisted the Maltese authorities must ensure “a full, transparent and independent investigation” and meet their commitments to ensure media freedom, issues he will raise in meetings with the government.
He was in Malta again last October to mark the second anniversary of her assassination and “to pay tribute to her memory and her legacy”. He was also scheduled to meet former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who then cancelled the meeting as Désir voiced his concerns during a press conference organised by Reporters Without Borders and The Shift for the launch of the report Justice Delayed: The Assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Malta’s Deteriorating Press Freedom Climate.
Désir has repeatedly called for all the facts to be brought to light and for all those responsible, including masterminds, to face justice. “There can be no mercy for those responsible for the assassination of the journalist,” he told The Shift in an interview.
The Opposition has said the nomination was in line with “Joseph Muscat’s way of doing politics: promoting disgraced politicians at the expense of Malta’s reputation.”
Civil society organisation Repubblika said Malta did not deserve “fake good governance”, insisting protests would continue “until people like Mizzi (and Muscat and Keith Schembri and others) continue to evade justice”.
The protest will be held on Wednesday 29 January in front of parliament in Valletta at 6pm.