EP sends strong message on impunity afforded to high-level officials

Resolution was adopted with 564 votes in favour despite opposition from Maltese Labour MEPs

 

European Parliament members have sent an unequivocal message to the Maltese government after an overwhelming majority of MEPs voted in favour of the resolution that included the concern about the impunity afforded to key figures in former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s administration, including Muscat himself, his former chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and the former minister for tourism, formerly the minister for energy Konrad Mizzi.

The resolution was adopted with 564 votes in favour, 10 votes against and 17 abstentions in what is perhaps the parliament’s strongest position to date against disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s administration since calling for Muscat’s resignation in 2019.

The four Maltese S&D Group MEPs, Cyrus Engerer, Josianne Cutajar, Alfred Sant and Alex Agius Saliba, were among those that voted against the resolution.

The resolution was negotiated by MEP David Casa on behalf of the EPP Group with the broad support of several MEPs representing other political groups in the parliament, including the S&D Group, the Renew Group the Verts/ALE Group, the ECR Group and the Left Group.

During the parliamentary debate on Monday, Casa remembered how Daphne Caruana Galizia had revealed corruption at the highest level – even the political apparatus of government was mobilised to ridicule and isolate her.

“The murderers have been caught. Now it is the turn of politicians and officials who played their role,” Casa said, adding that “Daphne deserved better, the Maltese and Gozitan people deserve better, and we will continue to insist wholeheartedly to ensure full justice.”

Similarly, Dutch MEP Sophie in’t Veld had also noted during the parliamentary debate on Monday that “hardly any of those cases have been adequately investigated, let alone brought to trial,” saying impunity must end “really and truly”.

In’t Veld ended her intervention with a direct message to Joseph Muscat where she said, “I believe you need your lawyers for more urgent matters than writing letters to MEPs telling them what they can and cannot say”.

The resolution also includes the call for the government to withdraw the FOI appeals against The Shift and the concern by members of the European Parliament that obstacles to media freedom and pluralism persist, especially regarding the Maltese government’s handling of access to information, as well as potentially discriminatory funding of media outlets.

Asked by The Shift about what more can be done when confronted with the Maltese government’s evident resistance towards following international resolutions or recommendations, Casa underscored that the European Parliament would continue to exert pressure on the Maltese government and added: “I see no reason why the government can’t or will not use these recommendations to safeguard the rights of journalists”.

MEP David Casa in an interview with The Shift in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

When discussing the government’s slew of FOI appeals against Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests filed by The Shift, Casa said, “Let me remind you that we (Malta) are competing right now with Poland when it comes to SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) in Europe and that’s not a very good statistic, especially with a small media house like The Shift”.

“Forty suits because you are asking for information about how the government is spending its money to advertise is ridiculous, which is why I made sure that this is mentioned in the resolution as well as to address how journalists can be better protected even when faced with this kind of irresponsible suits,” Casa added.

He said these lawsuits, “especially from a democratic government,” are “even worse” than when they are initiated by businessmen.

“This is the government trying to shut up The Shift journalists, but it also has an effect on other journalists because in using these methods to scare journalists from a small media house, other media houses are affected as well.”

The resolution also includes an acknowledgement of the several proposals put forward by the Maltese government to improve the situation of media freedom and further urges the Maltese authorities to ensure that the proposed reforms meet the European and international standards on the protection of journalists.

When asked about what the Maltese government’s next steps should be now that it has halted its parliamentary debate of the legislative proposals for the protection of journalists and media freedom, Casa replied: “I expect the government to listen to journalists rather than dictating to the journalists how they should be better protected”.

One amendment within the resolution that was voted upon on Thursday is included in paragraph 15, taking note of Prime Minister Robert Abela’s commitment, made on 13 October, to seek broad public consultation concerning the media sector, following advocacy efforts by international civil society, the media community in Malta and the Council of Europe.

                           
                           
                               
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saviour mamo
saviour mamo
1 month ago

First, corruption killed the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, and now the impunity of Robert Abela has killed the nation’s credibility.

Mick
Mick
1 month ago

Good article Elisabeth, but I don’t want to piss on your fire, but these philistines will completely ignore the advice and recommendations. If your lucky someone will call them out and pass it on to the trolls for dissemination and comment, most of which you can predict. Don’t forget this country has been taken over by the Mafia in the guise of the Labour Party which it totally controls. No other country in the World has been subjugated by the Mafia.

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