A group of six leading press freedom NGOs has been denied a requested tête-à-tête with Prime Minister Robert Abela over the government’s controversial new legislation regulating how it deals with and protects the media.
Representatives from Reporters Without Borders, the European Federation of Journalists, the International Press Institute, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Article 19 and the Committee to Protect Journalists are all currently in Malta where they are monitoring the trial by jury of the hit men accused of the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The NGOs had requested a meeting with Abela, who has not acceded to their request, but say they remain open to a meeting with the Prime Minister to follow up on discussions held last year in Malta.
Abela told them he would be unavailable because he would be travelling to Berlin for “important international work”. Abela, however, will certainly be back in Malta by Sunday, where he will be addressing a much-hyped Labour political meeting in Zebbug, on the day of the fifth anniversary of the journalist’s murder.
In a joint statement, the NGOs said the current country visit follows up on similar missions held in previous years, and that the group of NGOs is looking to meet with the Prime Minister and relevant ministers “in an attempt to continue the dialogue with the Maltese government”.
They will, however, be meeting with civil society representatives, journalists and other key stakeholders. Meetings are also being requested with Information and Data Protection Commissioner Ian Deguara; members of the diplomatic community and representatives of the European Commission; and Maltese journalists, media workers and civil society organisations.
“Despite a broad outcry, including by the organisations represented in the delegation, for full justice and accountability for Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, judicial proceedings have so far made very limited progress,” they said in the statement.
“Additionally, the government has been slow to implement press freedom reforms recommended by the landmark Public Inquiry, and it has failed to organise proper public consultations on legislative proposals.
“Accordingly, as in previous years, the continued need for justice and accountability for Caruana Galizia’s assassination will feature prominently on the delegation’s agenda. “Additionally, representatives will also focus on the other systemic failings that continue to negatively affect Malta’s press freedom climate.”
The NGOs will also be supporting Caruana Galizia’s family and national civil society as part of Sunday’s commemoration events.
Later on Friday, the international press freedom NGOs will be holding a discussion with the Maltese press corps at large over the controversial new media legislation.