Free press NGOs call out Robert Abela’s interference in public inquiry

Nine international free press organisations have written a letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela urging him to not interfere in the public inquiry looking into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

“For this inquiry to be regarded as effective under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, it must be carried out in a manner that ensures independence from those implicated in the events, which means not only a lack of hierarchical or institutional connection but also concrete and practical independence,” the NGOs wrote.

Abela had said he would only grant a one-time extension to the public inquiry. His statement was met with harsh criticism from the family of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and civil society.

The NGOs expressed “grave concern” about the government’s “apparent interference,” saying that its presumption to set a time by which the inquiry must finish constitutes undue interference with the fulfilment of the Board’s task.

They also said that this interference hinders the fair and due fulfilment of its Terms of Reference and, as such, violates Article 2 of the European Convention.

“Therefore, we respectfully request you refrain from attempting to impose such a time limit, or any other interference with the independence of the Board of Inquiry, and to ensure that it has the resources at its disposal to fulfil the Terms of Reference, as decided by the independent Board itself,” the NGOs added.

This letter follows a protest by Repubblika and a letter by Council of Europe Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt, who called on the government to ensure the inquiry remains truly independent.

This most recent appeal to the Maltese government is signed by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Article 19, Association of European Journalists, IFEX, International Press Institute, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, European Federation of Journalists and PEN America.

                           
                               

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