Pressure and harassment against journalists continue to limit the dissemination of public interest information – the issue is the focus of a new book that includes the last recorded interview with assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
‘A mission to inform: journalists at risk speak out’, co-authored by Marilyn Clark and William Horsley was officially launched through an online event organised by the Council of Europe on Wednesday.
“Despite the threats and pressure, we find that most of the journalists adapt and do their utmost to survive. Despite all odds, they keep ongoing and that was one of the most interesting points from the interviews,” Clark said.
The book follows a 2017 study called ‘Journalists Under Pressure. Unwarranted Interference, Fear and Self-censorship in Europe’.
While the study on which the book is based involved over 9,000 journalists, the book focuses on a handful of journalists across Europe.
Murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was among those interviewed.
“This report has meaning to me not only because it features my mother, but because this is the last recording we have of her before she was killed,” Caruana Galizia’s son, Matthew, said during his intervention at the launch.
“She spoke about the threats and harassment she was facing. It ranged from physical to lawsuits,” her son added.
Caruana Galizia, who is now director of the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, said that there is no way to disentangle the crime of his mother and the corruption she was exposing:
“The public inquiry looking into the faults of the State which led to this murder is something never seen before in such a case. Why did we have to fight so hard for this? Why wasn’t this solution straight off the bat? We fought to get it and now we have to ensure its survival.”
Caruana Galizia was referring to the one-time extension ’granted’ by the Prime Minister for the conclusion of the public inquiry. The family of the journalist is fighting to keep the inquiry truly independent and free of any possible government interference.
Council of Europe Human Right Director Christos Giakumopoulos said the fact that Caruana Galizia was murdered only days after giving her interview is a powerful reminder of the seriousness of the situation for journalists in Europe.
A similar message was conveyed by President of the Assembly at the Council of Europe Rik Daems who said there’s a worrying culture of impunity across Europe and the world when it comes to the treatment of journalists.
“In the US, mistreating a journalist in public almost became something to score political points,” he said.
Daems said that “the right to know” is more relevant than ever and that is why he believes it should be high on the Council of Europe’s agenda.
This virtual book launch coincides with the third-year anniversary of the assassination of journalist Caruana Galizia who was killed in a car bomb just outside her house in October 2017.
“The Council will not sit still until those responsible for this murder are brought to justice. You can count on that,” Daems added.
He said journalists today face another rising power, that of social media. “This power can be very harmful to the interest of journalists. We’re in a situation where if a lie is repeated for long enough, it becomes the truth.”
An Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) journalist pointed out that one real threat journalists are facing worldwide is SLAPP lawsuits and called for international entities such as the Council of Europe to form an international alliance against such threats.
The publication launched on Wednesday aims to provide a unique exploration of the intimidation of journalists across Council of Europe Member States and it provides a resource to everyone concerned with the protection of journalists, including government authorities and media practitioners.