The Malta Independent 22 September 2020, Tuesday

Daphne public inquiry - What happened to Theuma 'obscene', RSF chief says

Friday, 24 July 2020, 09:32 Last update: about 3 months ago

The public inquiry into the murder of Journalist Daphne Caruana Galiza continues today.

In the previous sitting, Kurt Farrugia testified on his role within the Office of the Prime Minister. Farrugia said that when he confronted Former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi about his mention in the Running Commentary, Caruana Galizia’s blog, the minister had replied that it was “bluff”.

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Farrugia said that he had spoken to Mizzi and Keith Schembri when Panama Papers broke to formulated a reaction. Asked by the inquiry presiding judge Michael Mallia what their reaction was, Farrugia replied: “I don't remember exactly but they had said that there were incorrect assertions.”

The public inquiry was supposed to be held last Wednesday, but was moved to a later date after middleman Melvin Theuma was found bleeding inside his Swieqi apartment on Tuesday night, with sustained injuries to his left hand, abdomen and throat.

Police said the wounds were self-sustained.

The public inquiry is tasked with, amongst other things, determining whether the State did all it could to prevent the murder from happening.

The sitting was scheduled to start at 9.30am.

Follow our live blog below.


 

11:16 That is all for today. Thank you for following.

11:15 Nationalist European Parliament Member David Casa will be testifying today week.

11:14 Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo will be testifying next week at 9:30 am.

11:13 Azzopardi has no further questions. Witness steps off the stand.

11:13 Pauline Adès-Méve says that Matteo Salvini had used his private email when he was trying to revoke Roberto Saviano's protection, in a reply to a question about the use of the PM's private email to attack journalists.

11:10 "That is unheard of," Pauline Adès-Méve replies.

11:10 Azzopardi presents a tweet by Economy Minister Silvio Schembri posted on 30 May 2017. In it Schembri shared a video and wrote that after the election they would get rid of Daphne Caruana Galizia and her son Matthew.

11:09 "Salvini who happens to be the best friend of Joseph Muscat." Azzopardi remarks.

11:08 "It does happen, because unfortunately the press situation has deteriorated," she says. "Hungary, Poland and Italy at the time of Salvini."

11:07 "Have you ever encountered a situation where an official in the office of the prime minister who is also a member of parliament writes publicly to discredit journalists?" Azzopardi asks her.

11:07 "How often have you encountered States trying to discredit journalists and civil society?" Azzopardi asks. Adès-Méve replies: Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania.

11:06 "27 years," Pauline Adès-Méve replies.

11:05 "How long have you been a journalist?" he asks her.

11:05 Lawyer Jason Azzopardi takes over the questioning.

11:04 Pauline Adès-Méve: "The political interference into the murder investigation is clear, she said. I managed to meet the magistrate investigating the murder on my own six months after the murder but he was promoted directly after. I had to inform the police before the meeting. I was later told that I would not be allowed to meet his successor Neville Camilleri."

10:59 "A grant was obtained to look into what was happening here. The foreign organisation who provided the grant, will not be named," she said. Rebecca Vincent wrote the report with the help of Caroline Muscat of the Shift.

10:57 Therese Comodini Cachia asks Adès-Méve about her report ‘Justice delayed.'

10:57 "This is something we are used to, I have met with other heads of government..."

10:56 It took her two or three months of trying to get a meeting with the PM Adès-Méve said. "Until the very last minute we didn't know if we would be meeting with him."

10:55 "The feeling of impunity has an impact on other journalists. The rhetoric is formed in a way to despise journalists. What they say is nonsense," she said.

10:51 Pauline Adès-Méve: "From what I've heard the PM had always been extremely concerned, polite and interested in what we were asking, but he also seemed to be saying that the authorities were doing what they had to do."

10:50 "What was the reaction of the authorities?" There Comodini Cachia asks.

10:49 "I met with the President, my colleague Rebecca Vincent met the PM, I met the Attorney General and she met the Economy minister. Our proposals were twofold. Firstly, to have an independent public inquiry into the murder with international observers. When my colleague met with the PM a year ago, the main demand was to obtain full justice in a transparent way."

10:48 "At MSF, we defend those we believe fit in our criteria. They don't insult people, they check sources, verify information."

10:47 "I did not mention bloggers because the notion is very large. We do not defend those who publish on Facebook and so on. We work with journalists whose context is journalistic," Adès-Méve says.

10:47 "How many independent journalists do you have on this island even though it is small? Not much. In Slovakia there are a lot."

10:45 "After her assassination, other journalists decided to take over by creating The Shift. It does not mean that you necessarily feel safe. It is courageous and needed."

10:44 "They were not able to report properly on this huge political crisis. Self-censorship is something common."

10:43 "Some journalists tell me that they are not able to write, especially after the murder. I remember some journalists being prevented from working on the political affairs just before Prime Minister Muscat left. Journalists were prevented from doing reports and covering stories."

10:42 Pauline Adès-Méve: "After the murder, we took part in the demonstration in October 2017. That was my first time in Malta, the streets were jam packed. State TV made no mention of the four-to-five-hour demonstration, just a mention of the fact that people had gathered to commemorate Daphne Caruana Galizia with a single photograph."

10:40 "We study public TV around the world and we look at what it provides to the audience."

10:39 She replies that she does not have this kind of detail, but that the legal team at RSF might know.

10:39 Therese Comodini Cachia asks about SLAPP proceedings and if she is aware of the exchange of emails between the person proposing the SLAPP suit, then Justice Minister Owen Bonnici and then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

10:37 "Also, journalists do not want to be followed by three cars of security personnel all the time," she said.

10:36 Answering a question from the board, Adès-Méve said that she is in contact with foreign countries to provide security for journalists at risk in those countries. "It works in Serbia, sometimes it isn't enough, but sometimes the police want to please us and offer protection."

10:34 Pauline Adès-Méve: "The way she (Daphne Caruana Galizia) was attacked, treated and harassed was a sign for me that things would get worse and worse."

10:33 "Since the trial is not over and there is no judgment in this case...who is behind the perpetrators? It could also be a foreign country. As long as we don't know who had ordered this murder...RSF is committed to get justice for this case," she says.

10:30 "One of them in particular is more watched than the others," she says.

10:30 "There is also the fact that the journalists we meet here do not want to be seen with us. It's a small island and it gives indication that they do not feel safer than they were."

10:29 "Many believe that their phones are monitored, not one of them will communicate unless through encrypted networks. This feeling is reinforced now. In 2016, I was receiving emails on my normal work account. I would say that this is one sign that has changed. Also, the SLAPP procedures against Daphne, Matthew, Caroline Muscat and other journalists themselves. This is shocking. Journalists are under judicial pressure even when they are dead, so this is a sign."

10:27 Therese Comodini Cachia asks about the journalists who told her that they are in a bad situation. "Give examples without identifying."

10:26 "Tons of journalists are scared throughout the world, but we are in the EU and such things are not common, I can tell you."

10:25 "The SLAPP procedures, the pressure and the fact that even though there is this public inquiry, even though that people were caught outright, even the situation on the judiciary front, they're still scared."

10:23 "We have seen no change. So far, I haven't had any journalists telling me that the situation has improved," Adès-Mével says.

10:22 On Melvin Theuma's suicide attempt: "Where in the EU do you see a situation where a witness finds himself in the situation he is in. It is obscene."

10:17 What happened here is that after a journalist was blown up, the attacks on journalists continued unabated, she said.

10:22 On Melvin Theuma's suicide attempt: "Where in the EU do you see a situation where a witness finds himself in the situation he is in. It is obscene."

10:17 What happened here is that after a journalist was blown up, the attacks on journalists continued unabated, she said

10:17 What happened here is that after a journalist was blown up, the attacks on journalists continued unabated, she said

10:15 Muscat had continued to target journalists, she said. In Slovakia, the Prime Minister was calling journalists prostitutes for reporting on EU funds not being distributed correctly. He was forced from office and Mr. Pellegrini took over. The pressures are not gone but are less visible.

10:14 Those reporting to us about the situation here are those work for the Maltese media, and those who travel from abroad to Malta to report about the situation. The fact that to date those who speak to us don't want to be named is telling, she said. In Slovakia, they are named.

10:12 She draws parallels with Jan Kuciak case, saying that RSF had done huge work in Slovakia. Yesterday the prosecutor requested 25 years imprisonment for the mastermind.

10:14 Those reporting to us about the situation here are those work for the Maltese media, and those who travel from abroad to Malta to report about the situation. The fact that to date those who speak to us don't want to be named is telling, she said. In Slovakia, they are named.

10:12 She draws parallels with Jan Kuciak case, saying that RSF had done huge work in Slovakia. Yesterday the prosecutor requested 25 years imprisonment for the mastermind.

10:10 Pauline Adès-Méve: "My view is that journalists are still at risk and the reason why I am here is that we don't want another journalist to be killed here."

10:09 RSF sends questionnaires from September to January, so no new questionnaires have been sent since the new PM was appointed, she tells the court.

10:09 Legislative framework and media ownership are also factors which are considered.

10:08 "We evaluate based on seven indicators...we pool the responses of experts on the ground. We combine quantitative data on acts of violence, media independence, media environment, self-censorship and quality of infrastructure," Adès-Méve tells him.

10:07 Judge Said Pullicino asks what criteria influence the ranking.

10:06 "There was some hope in November. Now it seems the situation has not improved enough."

10:06 "There was a lot of hope when the Prime Minister changed. But it seems that this oath is not followed with any concrete measures. People are still scared. Journalists are still at risk," Adès-Méve tells the judges.

10:05 The polarisation of the media is one of the factors in this, she said.

10:05 "She was not assassinated a second time but the country continued to slide in the rankings."

10:04 "Malta was ranked 47 the year she was assassinated. In 2018, it went to number 65."

10:04 Pauline Adès-Méve: "At the time, Poland was considered as an exemplary country where press freedom was deteriorating. I travelled there a lot, but I said that there are other countries like Malta and Cyprus where the European Union was not looking closely at what was happening on the ground."

10:02 She had written to Daphne Caruana Galizia, but had not received a reply so she had contacted Matthew instead.

10:01 "I told him that I was alerted and people were telling me that they were scared." The people who told her this are local journalists and journalists who work with foreign media.

10:00 It was not normal to have one journalist singled out, she said.

09:59 "Matthew explained the situation with his mother and the pressure. I started to ask him how it had become like this. I was shocked because he had been going through this for a long time. Family dogs being killed, arson attempts at the house," Pauline Adès-Méve says.

09:58 She had managed to speak to Matthew Caruana Galizia, who was working with ICIJ at the time. So, they met in July 2017 at the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) HQ.

09:58 In her vast experience of reporting, she said she knows when the situation for journalists is not normal.

09:57 "It's important that I tell you about these alerts. We don't take them for granted but we investigate," Adès-Méve says.

09:57 That was after the Panama Papers exploded, she said. It wasn't Daphne Caruana Galizia herself who contacted her, but other journalists.

09:56 In February 2017, when Malta was about to lose one rank in the press freedom index, she had received information that Daphne Caruana Galizia was being harassed and had her assets frozen.

09:55 "It was clear that given this context that something was wrong," she says.

09:55 "When I joined RSF I immediately noted that Malta was very well placed." She said that reporters in Malta were reporting being tense and scared of backlash

09:54 She was monitoring 40 countries.

09:54 Pauline Adès-Méve was responsible for monitoring the situation of press freedom in the European Union.

09:53 "It's an important moment. I've been working on the case for three years, really three years and a half because I was aware of the difficult situation of journalists in Malta," Pauline Adès-Mével says.

09:51 Vella steps off the stand. Pauline Adès-Mével is called in.

09:51 Other articles written in Maltastar under the editorship of Kurt Farrugia in which Daphne Caruana Galizia was demonised were also presented.

09:50 Comodini Cachia tells the board she wants to present an interview Daphne Caruana Galizia had given shortly before she was killed in which she described the threats she faced. Corrinne Vella presents the copy to the board, together with an article from the Guardian about the journalist.

09:43 Therese Comodini Cachia presents a copy of the NAO report on Vitals Global Healthcare to the board.

09:43 The three judges leading the public inquiry emerge. Retired judge Michael Mallia is heading the inquiry. Former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Madame Justice Abigail Lofaro are the other members.

9:42 Reporters Without Borders editor-in-chief Pauline Adès-Mével will testify today.

 

 

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