October 15, 2018 - Updated on October 16, 2018

In Malta, RSF urges PM Muscat to establish an immediate public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination

On the eve of the first anniversary of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and four other international press freedom and freedom of expression NGOs met with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in Valletta today to express their concern about the lack of significant progress in the investigation into her assassination.

Although a full year has passed, the investigation has yet to establish who killed the investigative reporter by a car bomb on 16 October 2017. Three persons were arrested in December 2017 on suspicion of carrying out the attack, but their trial has not yet begun, and the identity of those who ordered her assassination is still unknown.

Today’s meeting with Prime Minister Muscat took place during a joint mission to Malta by RSF and four other NGOs, with the aim of examining the investigation into Caruana Galizia’s murder and assessing the broader freedom of expression climate in the country. It was Muscat’s first meeting with representatives of press freedom organisations since the murder.

The delegation delivered a joint statement at the start of the meeting; the full text is available via download below. The five NGOs condemned the impunity surrounding Caruana Galizia’s murder and urged Muscat to do everything possible to ensure that the masterminds are also identified and brought to justice. They also asked him to give firm undertakings to guarantee press freedom and the safety of journalists in Malta, including by establishing an immediate public inquiry into whether the assassination could have been prevented.

Muscat repeatedly stated that it was a matter of when, not whether a public inquiry would be established. He said the government had been advised to wait until the criminal investigation had concluded before launching a public inquiry.

“Although we welcomed the chance to engage in a frank discussion with Prime Minister Muscat about the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and other freedom of expression violations in Malta, we were disappointed by his lack of commitment to establish an immediate public inquiry into whether her assassination could have been prevented. The longer this question continues to remain unanswered, the longer journalists will remain at risk in Malta. We call for a public inquiry to be launched without delay”, said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent, who took part in the meeting.

The delegation also monitored proceedings in five of the 30 defamation cases that continue posthumously against Caruana Galizia. They will remain in Malta through 17th October, and will meet with other government officials, journalists, and civil society representatives.

At the time of her death, Caruana Galizia had been the target of 42 civil and five criminal defamation cases. She had also been the repeated target of threats and other forms of harassment. But she refused to be silenced.

Caruana Galizia had been shedding light on corruption at the highest levels of government and had published many articles linking persons close to Muscat to offshore accounts exposed by the Panama Papers scandal, after which the government called early elections in June 2017.

RSF and its partners will pay tribute to Caruana Galizia at events in Paris, London, Brussels, and Berlin on the anniversary her assassination tomorrow. A vigil will also be held tomorrow evening in Valletta. The international mission will issue a joint statement of findings, which will be presented a press conference the morning of 17 October.

Malta is ranked 65th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, having fallen 18 places since 2017.