RSF has returned to Malta to mark two years since the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2019. RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire and UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent have travelled to the country to renew calls for justice and underscore the need for concrete action to address the broader deteriorating press freedom climate in the country.
On 15 October, Deloire and Vincent met with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela, Minister for Justice Owen Bonnici, and Attorney General Peter Grech. RSF appreciated the chance for a frank and robust exchange of views on steps needed to improve the press freedom situation in Malta.
“I remember the crowd without any visible limits in the streets of Valletta, gathered in support of press freedom, as happened in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and as happened in Bratislava after Jan Kuciak and his fiancee were killed,” said Christophe Deloire. “One could have expected the Maltese government to take proactive measures for the protection of journalists and launch an ambitious plan for press freedom in the country after Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination. Instead, the authorities behaved defensively. The time has come to adopt a new strategy. It will be better late than never.”
RSF underscored the urgent need for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, crucially including the need to move forward in establishing a fully independent and impartial public inquiry - in line with the requirements of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe - without further delay. RSF also called for the posthumous defamation lawsuits against Daphne Caruana Galizia to be dropped, and for the government to allow the Valletta protest memorial in her honour to stand. They emphasised the need for protection of journalists and called for an end to attacks on independent media, including The Shift News.
RSF also launched a ground-breaking new report in a Valletta press conference on 15 October, at which Christophe Deloire and Rebecca Vincent spoke, alongside OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir and Justice for Journalists Foundation Director Maria Ordzhonikidze. The report, titled ‘Justice delayed: the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Malta’s deteriorating press freedom climate,’ is a joint publication of RSF and The Shift News, and has been published with the kind support of the Justice for Journalists Foundation. The full report is available for download below.
On 14 October, Rebecca Vincent monitored hearings in a number of defamation cases at the Courts of Justice in Valletta, including lawsuits brought by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat against Daphne Caruana Galizia and her son, Matthew Caruana Galizia, and lawsuits brought by the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and former Central Bank Deputy Governor Alfred Mifsud that continue posthumously against Daphne Caruana Galizia. The hearings in the cases filed by Muscat and Schembri - neither of whom appeared in court - were postponed until 9 December. Mifsud gave brief testimony, and the defence counsel deferred their right to cross-examine him until the next hearing, which has been set for 20 January.
“The fact that hearings in these vexatious defamation suits took place on the very eve of the anniversary of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination is an outrage. Rather than continuing to use these lawsuits to pressure her grieving family, the Prime Minister and other officials should drop these lawsuits and refocus their efforts on the true pursuit of justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia,” said Rebecca Vincent.
RSF will take part in the 16 October Valletta demonstration in honour of Daphne Caruana Galizia, at which Christophe Deloire and Rebecca Vincent will speak. RSF is also involved in vigils that will take place on 16 October in London, Brussels, Berlin, and Vienna.
Malta is ranked 77th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, after falling 30 places over the past two years.