The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Libelling the deceased - How long will it take to do the right thing?

Friday, 20 September 2019, 09:08 Last update: about 26 days ago

It seems the Prime Minister needs something of a reality check.

He asks, again, for the family of a murdered journalist to accept the conclusions of an unpublished inquiry damning the journalist when the whole inquiry has never seen the light of day, and presumably only the light of the bulbs of Castille and the Attorney General's Office.

This is something that no one in their right minds would ever consider doing.  Would anyone be willing to trash their own deceased mother's or wife's name for the sake of judicial expediency or to be let off a libel case without even seeing any kind of concrete evidence that the journalist is wrong?

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This looks more like the stuff of the politburo or, to use a more Western example, McCarthyism.

The Prime Minister replied to a Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, who just yesterday took him to task for persisting in his libel case against Daphne Caruana Galizia, through her heirs, by firing back he had offered to drop the case if the family were make a declaration to the effect that they accept the findings of the Egrant Inquiry.

Imagine being asked to discredit your murdered mother's work on the basis of an extract of 49 pages from a 1,500 page-long inquiry.  They are, understandably, asking for more information from the inquiry before even considering such a move.

Now we understand that the Egrant business had something of a devastating effect on the Prime Minister but that is part of the burden of his office, and it is downright untruthful to say that the findings were made immediately made public as he did in his reply to the Human Rights Commissioner.

For several reasons, the deceased journalist's family is not accepting what it labels a 'blackmail attempt'.

But, they may just do it if the Prime Minister provides certain information kept under the tightest of wraps, information that should, truth be told, be made public considering the its national importance.

This includes the testimony given by the journalist herself, that of the Pilatus Bank whistleblower, of a Mossack Fonseca employee, of the Nexia BT people and the forensic accountants' reports.

And of course, should this evidence eventually be produced and it is found to have been well founded, the Prime Minister will have had his pound of flesh, he would be vindicated and responsibility would be appropriated.  Perhaps the Prime Minister should entreat the Attorney General to produce these pieces of evidence that are being requested.

This would have the same, if not an even better, effect than pressing on with the vexatious libel proceedings against the heirs.  This kind of behaviour, after all, creates a chilling effect on all journalists.

It doesn't seem like a lot to ask given the nation interest involved in this case and also what is being asked of the decease journalist's family.

This goes over and above the fact that if he were the statesman that he portends to be, the Prime Minister would have dropped those libel cases a long, long time ago.

He, or the Attorney General technically speaking, really should do the right thing for the country here.  And what is the right thing? That would be to drop the libel case, publish the inquiry and move on with the governing of the country.  This matter has now been hanging over the nation's head for far too long now. 

Enough of the blackmail attempts, enough of the hidden inquiry and enough of dangling its publication before the public like a dangling carrot.

And such a move can't be too difficult really if there is nothing to hide.  The only difficulty we can see are those for the people mentioned in the inquiry and who may need some degree of protection by the Prime Minister. 

If there is any other explanation to all of this, our ears are wide open.


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