‘Efforts to protect journalism will fail without an equal effort to fight the scourge of corruption’

Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation stresses 'this fight can never be won without a strong press'.

 

Press freedom reforms must be led by an independent committee of international and Maltese experts mandated to recommend legal amendments to parliament on strengthening press freedom, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation said in a statement.

Following a list of recommendations by an independent inquiry into her assassination, published in July,  the Foundation said: “The work to build an enabling environment for press freedom should follow a clear timeline aimed at bringing about cultural, political and legislative reform… (leading to) appropriate protection mechanisms for journalists as well as measures to address the negative and prejudicial political rhetoric targeting the press”.

The terms of reference for the committee should reflect the country’s level of ambition to transform itself into a positive role model for press freedom.

The terms should include relevant, pre-set criteria that committee members should meet. Apart from having the necessary integrity and independence from government, as a minimum, these criteria should include expertise in the role of media in a democracy and expertise in constitutional reform to entrench press freedom as the fourth pillar of democracy, the Foundation added.

The public inquiry report also speaks of fighting corruption and money laundering, which is where the threat to journalism in Malta and most of Europe is strongest. “Efforts to protect journalism will fail without an equal effort to fight the scourge of corruption, and this fight can never be won without a strong press. Both challenges need to be addressed in the reform process. As part of this, we urgently need to see prosecutions for the corruption that paved the way to Daphne’s murder.”

Stressing that a truly free and independent press is essential to a functioning democracy, the Foundation added that it must be “robustly supported and protected”.

“Malta must – if its tradition of democracy is to survive – create and maintain an enabling environment in which the press is able to fulfil this essential democratic function.”

The public inquiry on the journalist’s assassination, which concluded that the State must bear responsibility for the climate of impunity that enabled her death, “handed Malta a historic opportunity to transform itself from the country known for the bomb blast that took Daphne’s life to a country recognised for its response to that trauma”, her family said.

Referring to the decades of abuse the journalist suffered, the Foundation noted that it “occurred within a climate of impunity and negative rhetoric directed against Daphne and other journalists in Malta”.

The Caruana Galizia family called upon the government to unequivocally condemn the climate of impunity and negative rhetoric identified by the public inquiry, which dehumanised her.

“We remember her life and work with both sorrow and gratitude and we renew our commitment to ensuring justice for her murder and for lessons to be learnt from her death.”

Five international press freedom organisations are in Malta to mark the fourth anniversary of her assassination. Beyond visiting the protest memorial in her memory in Valletta, the delegation has met with government representatives, journalists, civil society organisations and other key stakeholders.

“Once again, we join Daphne’s family and civil society in the relentless call for full justice for her assassination and for the corruption she was killed for exposing,” Sarah Clarke, Head of Article 19 in Europe, said on Twitter.

She is joined in Malta by Ricardo Gutierrez (European Federation of Journalists), Tom Gibson (Committee to Protect Journalists), Flutura Kusari (European Centre for Press and Media Freedom) while Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is represented by International Campaigns Director Rebecca Vincent and Head of EU Desk Pavol Szalai.

                           
                               
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