MEP David Casa has sent a letter to Atkins Thomson Solicitors, the law firm used by Turab Musayev who was Socar’s Trading partner in Electrogas, asking him to retract threats made against The Shift and other national media houses.
The Shift is among newsrooms in Malta that received threats by London law firms to silence reporting on the Montengro scandal. The SLAPP threats received would financially cripple the media in Malta.
The Shift has published in full the letter received by law firm Atkins Thomson, and its reply in which it stated it would not retract findings in its investigation and will continue to reveal facts on the deal in the public interest.
In the letter, Casa said the substance of the scandal is linked to the investigative work of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who was assassinated in order to prevent her from exposing linked cases of high level corruption and money laundering.
Casa insisted that if the threats are not retracted, the situation will inevitably be escalated. “The severity of this case necessitates the use of every platform the European institutions provide to put a stop to the harassment of the free press and the subversion of democracy.”
Casa, who is a member of the Media Working Group of the European Parliament, said that the European Commission is currently working on legislation that would prohibit the very actions that Musayev has undertaken.
“Until such legislation is in place, you will find the European Parliament standing side by side with media houses that are threatened and harassed by those they investigate and their legal representatives.”
Casa’s letter to the law firm follows statements by the Institute of Journalists and Moviment Graffiti expressing their support to newsrooms currently facing SLAPP threats by Musayev.
A report has also been filed with Mapping Media Freedom, an organisation that monitors threats to the free press and media violations in Europe.
The IGM has requested an urgent meeting with the government to seek a way forward in protecting journalists against threats such as SLAPP. The Opposition has twice presented a Bill in parliament to protect journalists against such threats.
The first Bill was rejected when Owen Bonnici was Justice Minister. The second Bill proposed has as yet not been discussed.
“Government has a unique opportunity to support freedom of speech. SLAPP threats will not intimidate Maltese journalists from continuing to seek truth and justice on a number of corruption cases, the recent high profile scandals in Malta and the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia,” the IĠM said.
Moviment Graffiti has condemned without reservation the SLAPP against the Maltese media who reported on the Montenegro wind farm project and called on the local authorities to introduce anti-SLAPP legislation.
“These lawsuits are nothing more than vicious attempts to silence the media, and are antithetical to a robust democracy. They are not meant to be won. They are an act of brute intimidation, seeking disproportionate remedies and using every trick to drive up costs. They are fought with money, not reason or rectitude,” Graffiti said in a statement.
This is in fact what happened in 2017, when the concessionaire for the Maltese passports scheme to the super rich, Henley & Partners, successfully SLAPPed several Maltese media houses. The Shift refused to have the articles removed and made the threat public.
Turab Musayev, Socar Trading’s Head of LNG trading, was named by Reuters as an owner of Cifidex, a company that was involved in a controversial Montenegro wind farm deal with Enemalta.
His name was also cited in court testimonies regarding the public enquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, reporting of which should be protected from legal action.
The Shift chose to make the threatening letter public since the silence behind such threats has in the past succeeded in getting newsrooms to withdraw stories and alter the public record.
In its reply, The Shift said this intimidation on behalf of Musayev was unacceptable and rejected the demand as intimidation of the free press that hinders reporting in the public interest.
“You may wish to advise (Musayev) that my client will report on any and all news that is relevant to the public,” The Shift’s reply stated.