Members of the European Parliament, including socialists, have adopted a resolution on the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the rule of law in Malta, calling on the government to do everything in its power to bring to justice all of those implicated in cases she investigated prior to her assassination.
The resolution condemned the “Labour patronage” of the journalist’s assassination. It was adopted with 635 in favour and only 46 against.
Socialist members of the European Parliament joined forces with the European People’s Party after it was revealed government ministers were linked and even implicated in the assassination of the journalist.
Vladimir Bilcik, the MEP who negotiated the resolution on behalf of the EPP group, said in a statement that the Maltese government allowed the assassination to take place, and therefore must ensure those who gave them patronage are brought to justice.
“Testimony has made clear that it was the links between the criminal underworld, the Maltese government, and the Malta Labour Party that allowed the assassination to take place. The Maltese Government now needs to deploy all necessary resources to bring to justice both those responsible for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and those who gave them political protection and patronage.”
He added: “The Maltese government must also bring to justice all those implicated in the cases currently being investigated or reported which she had brought to light before her assassination. We expect the European Commission to maintain pressure on the Maltese authorities to that end”.
I thank MEPs from all political groups who have voted in favour of a resolution urging Malta's Gov to deploy all necessary resources to bring all those implicated to #justice.
— David Casa (@DavidCasaMEP) April 29, 2021
The Party of European Socialists called on the government to bring those responsible to justice. The S&D said in a statement that their backing of the resolution stemmed from “a responsibility to speak out wherever there have been failings in the EU’s core values.”
They added that MEPs have a duty to protected and uphold “democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law everywhere in Europe.”
They noted there had been some “constructive cooperation” with the Maltese government, but this was not enough to stop them from backing the resolution against them.
While recognising judicial reforms in Malta, we call on Maltese authorities to bring those responsible for the tragic death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, to justice.
— S&D Group (@TheProgressives) April 28, 2021
The resolution adopted includes 14 points of concern, including the “repeated offer and use of presidential pardons” during the murder trial. This, they said, should not be used to evade full justice for those involved.
It also noted the “greatly delayed” progress in the investigation and said that the latest testimonies have brought “new suspicious facts and potentially criminal acts to light.”
All acts of corruption and fraud, especially at a high political level should be investigated and prosecuted quickly. The government must also consider the fight against organized crime, corruption, and the intimidation of journalists as of the utmost priority, the resolution states.
In terms of the media environment, it recognises that some reforms to protect journalists have been triggered but that “ the Maltese authorities should take further demonstrable steps, setting long-term legislative and policy measures that serve to ensure an environment for critical, independent journalism in Malta and the accountability of politicians and officials;”
It calls on the government to address concerns relating to media freedom and to keep public media free from political interference and the increasing use of hate speech on social media.
It adds that “ the protection of investigative journalists and whistleblowers is in the vital interests of society” and that they have a vital role in the continuing of Caruana Galizia’s investigations.
They called on the authorities to “ensure the protection of personal safety, livelihoods and thus the independence of journalists and whistleblowers at all costs and at all times.”
Point 13 also asks the European Commission to propose EU anti-SLAPP legislation to protect journalists from vexatious lawsuits while investigating maladministration and corruption.
Bilcik said that at the time of her assassination, Caruana Galizia had her assets frozen by the former Labour Party Minister of the Economy Chris Cardona. She also faced more than 40 libel suits.
“Journalists are increasingly being issued with similar so-called ‘strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), intended purely to frustrate their work and prevent accountability. We call on the Commission to propose EU-wide anti-SLAPP laws before the end of this year. In order to protect journalists from vexatious lawsuits, we have to better protect journalists and ensure media freedom and the rule of law in all EU Member States.”
Prior to the vote, an amendment was overwhelmingly voted in to include text about the cash-for-passport scheme, just days after the Passport Papers investigation published as a collaborative effort by the independent media in Malta in collaboration with international partners.