The Malta Independent 26 September 2021, Sunday

A democratic society

Owen Bonnici Friday, 19 October 2018, 08:10 Last update: about 4 years ago

It more than appropriate that on the one-year anniversary of the horrific murder of blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, our thoughts are with her family and friends, who are no doubt still grieving over the senseless act of violence, which happened on 16 October last year.

The Government is resolute in its determination to see justice served, not only in this case, but in all cases.

Malta is committed to upholding human rights, freedom of speech, the protection of journalists and the rule of law.

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That is why I again reiterate that the Government has been and will be introducing measures to strengthen the rule of law.

During the first and its current second legislature, the Government has embarked on a wide range of reforms which strengthened the rule of law and bolstered democracy with the introduction of new legislation which brought Malta at par with European best practices in many areas of Governance.

This was evidenced with the recent promulgation of the new Media and Defamation Act which is one of the most progressive legislations in Europe and outside the continent as it did not only strike off criminal libel in whatever form from our law books, but also implemented a wide array of reforms which increased journalistic freedoms.

However, this Government has so far introduced more than just this measure, introducing also Constitutional amendments, which all lead to the strengthening of the Rule of Law and Good Governance in Malta.

A quick, but not an exhaustive list, includes: the removal of the prescription of corruption offences committed by politicians; the legal regulation of political party financing; the introduction of the rights of disclosure, translation, and interpretation to suspects and those held under arrest; liberalised its laws on artistic freedom; strengthened the Commission for Administration of Justice by entrenching it in the Constitution - establishing the Judicial Appointments Committee, and establishing the Committee for Judges and Magistrates as a completely independent organ within the judiciary to take charge of disciplinary cases involving members of the judiciary; introduced the right to be assisted by a lawyer during police interviews; transposed the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive and Capital Requirements Directive.

Quite recently, this Government also notified the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality its intention to participate in the EPPO, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Malta recognises that the establishment of the EPPO is a major development for safeguarding the economic interests of the European Union and ensures that union funds are employed for the achievement of the social and economic purposes for which they are intended.

As the Minister responsible for Justice, I know that our work in this sector is giving results, when Malta is commended on work done by foreign institutions. Recently our Whistleblower legislation was named as one of the most robust throughout the countries in the European Union and contains many, if not most, European and international standards. This was a main conclusion of a report published by the organization ‘Blueprint for free speech’ which follows a EU-funded study entitled “Gaps in the System”. The report singles out Malta and states that, “The blanket immunity in Malta’s Protection of the Whistleblower Act (2013) is among the strongest in the world: “Notwithstanding the provisions of the Criminal Code or of any other law, a whistleblower who makes a protected disclosure is not liable to any civil or criminal proceedings or to a disciplinary proceeding for having made such a disclosure”.”

Last March, Fitch commended Malta’s strong rule of law and government effectiveness. In its report, Fitch commended Malta’s high governance indicators, remarking that these results reflect a strong rule of law and governmental effectiveness.

 

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Going back to the beginning of the article, I remind that the Government was immediate in his action to bring those responsible for Daphne’s murder to justice.

In just 50 days, three people were arrested and are being prosecuted for carrying out the murder. The government is confident that anyone else responsible will be found and brought to justice.

We continue to support all efforts by the Police and investigating magistrate to find the truth.

And that is why the Government of Malta joins the international institutions; PEN International, ECPMF, CPJ, RSF and EFJ, in stressing the need that justice is served in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The Government reiterates its full support towards local and international investigators who are conducting a thorough and serious investigation.

The Government also agrees with the five international organisations that the free press is crucial and a sine qua non in a democracy and the Government is fully committed to keep strengthening freedom of expression in Malta.

Therefore, it looks forward to implement further reforms as might be suggested by the Venice Commission from whom the Government itself has requested a legal review.

The Government remains committed to engage with all bona fide international institutions and foster a deep dialogue, ultimately for the benefit of democracy, civil freedoms and the rule of law.

This sad anniversary is a stark reminder that we need to work together to protect the freedoms that democratic society affords us.

 

 

Owen Bonnici is Minister of Justice

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