The Malta Independent 1 February 2023, Wednesday
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Board of Inquiry recommends ‘abuse of office’ to become a crime

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 29 July 2021, 13:09 Last update: about 3 years ago

Judges who carried out a public inquiry into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia have recommended that “abuse of office” should be added in the criminal code as a crime.

The board of inquiry made several recommendations in their report, which was made public today.

The first recommendation is that every regulatory authority involved and the police must continue with their investigation to identify all the people who were in some way involved in the assassination of the journalist and assure that they all answer for their actions in court. “This inquiry showed that there still is work to be done and not everything is certain or finalised. The board understands that this is happening and that is what the results indicate.”

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The Board spoke about the importance of strengthening good governance and the implementation of recommendations by the Venice Commission and GRECO, among others.

Within the framework of these legal reforms, amendments in the criminal code and those regulating financial institutions, as well as others, should be introduced to assure that a de facto state of impunity not be developed, the board said. “Amendments to the laws that can help to contrast the mentality that one can evade laws and even carry out certain serious crimes as they would be in a position of political or economic power, or because they would be part of organised crime protected from this power. In this respect, it is essential that the laws that provide the policy of sanctioning irregularities and illegalities is reduced to a minimum and to exceptional cases.”

The legislative reform must also reflect and be reinforced by administrative practices that regulate well the relationships that can be created between public administration and people in business.

The board recommended the strengthening of the Whistleblower’s Act, the law regarding party financing, laws that regulate the awarding of contracts, tenders and direct orders. 

Recommendations for legislative reforms to strengthen the rule of law.

“There is a need for a law to combat financial crime including bribery and corruption through “Unexplained Wealth Orders.”

The board also recommends the creation of a specific crime for when a person with a public post obstructs or attempts to obstruct the police or other authorities in the performance of their duties including criminal investigations.  Another recommendation is to introduce in the criminal code the crime of “abuse of office” that occurs from a public official or someone employed by the public service,

A number of other legal changes are also recommended. The board also called for the Police Force to create a structure to identify the cause of risks to journalists and cater for it.

The board also made recommendations to help protect journalists, such as saying  that there is need for a formal police structure to identify which persons, not only journalists, could be exposed to serious attacks of any kind that can escalate to physical violence.  It recommends that a special unit be set up.

The unit would be able to serve as immediate contact between police and journalists, so that they can feel safe and protected while doing their job freely.

Recommendations were also made to strengthen journalism in the country, such as by introducing into the constitution, the phrase that free journalism is one of the pillars of a democratic society, and that the state has an obligation to guarantee and protect it. 

It has also been suggested an Ombudsman’s Office or a Commissioner for journalism ethics that is independent and on the same lines as the Commissioner for standards in Public Life be set up. It would need to be completely autonomous and impartial and have the function to implement laws and regulations that look at freedom of the media and the right to information.

Among other recommendations, the board recommended the creation of a law that regulated the journalistic profession.

Other recommendations were also made.

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