The Malta Independent 25 May 2020, Monday

TMID Editorial: Caruana Galizia investigation - Responsible and irresponsible reporting

Wednesday, 20 November 2019, 09:25 Last update: about 7 months ago

The reporting by sections of the Maltese media yesterday of the actual name of the alleged middleman in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation was completely irresponsible, if all out not dangerous.

Not only does it risk foiling investigations, it also places at serious risk any deal that may be on the table in return for providing information on the murder that has seized not only Malta’s, but the world’s, attention.

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The Malta Independent has been in possession of certain information and names related to the investigation in the past (including that published yesterday) for some time now, but we have hitherto chosen to practice caution and to withhold publication so as to not jeopardise the investigation.

There are times when the press should hold back, and this was very clearly one of them in our opinion.  And in fact, this is not the first time this newsroom has made this very same argument.

Early yesterday morning, The Times chose to publish an article to the effect that a suspected middleman in the plot to assassinate Daphne Caruana Galizia could possibly be offered a presidential pardon in return for revealing the mastermind behind it. That story did not contain the name of the alleged middleman.

From the outset, this had already been a debatable decision as it could have put some serious spokes in the investigation’s wheels. This newsroom, after debating the situation, opted to report The Times’ story given that it had already been placed, for better or for worse, in the public domain.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed the story later in the day. Addressing reporters, Muscat said that the man had been arrested in a police raid last Thursday in connection with a money laundering investigation, had offered to provide information about the assassination and demanded a blanket pardon for all crimes he had committed in the past. Muscat then said that he has given his assurance that if the information provided holds water in court, this presidential pardon would be signed, sealed and delivered.

That Muscat actually spoke about the situation perhaps means that this particular individual’s family is already under protection, and that the alleged mastermind is being kept under close watch - or at least this newsroom hopes that this is the case.

Muscat also appealed to the media to exercise ‘prudence’ as the case is not yet closed. He said that the person is currently under strict protection and is still being spoken to by the police.

However, just after that, MaltaToday, for reasons best known to themselves, went ahead and took the misguided decided to publish the name of the middleman in question.

This decision was both irresponsible and dangerous, and it led some other media houses to follow suit. The Malta Independent, however, felt that this was a step too far, way too far, and refrained from publishing the name even though that, too, was by then in the public domain.

Publishing the name of the middleman who was seeking a pardon in exchange for information on the mastermind behind the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, first of all, tips off the mastermind, who is presumably still not under arrest. This would obviously give that person ample time to run, go into hiding now that push has evidently come to serious shove, or to potentially threaten the middleman or the middleman’s family.

If the mastermind is not in custody, then this alleged middleman and the middleman’s family are in clear and present danger, and so is the information he is perhaps promising to give.

The danger, however, is far more serious than that. If this is indeed the middleman, or one of them, and he is indeed telling the truth, the Prime Minister had said that the pardon would be applied to all cases in which he had been involved and on which he collaborates, and the deal is that he must also spill all the beans on all of them.

This means that, by publishing his name, a target could very well have been placed on this man everyone else who had been involved in any crimes that he may have taken part in, and not just the mastermind behind the Caruana Galizia murder.  And if that happens, or if he decides to clam up, there is also a real risk that his information may never see the light of day.

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