The Malta Independent 21 September 2021, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Public inquiry - Responsibility must be shouldered

Friday, 30 July 2021, 07:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

The state is responsible for the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the board of the public inquiry has concluded.

The conclusion of the long-awaited inquiry was not surprising at all. Not because, as some would argue, the board members have it in for the government, but because we have long known how the previous administration created a culture of impunity that facilitated the journalist’s murder.

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The inquiry concluded that, while the state did not seemingly play an active role in the murder, it created conditions that made the crime easier to commit.

First of all, Joseph Muscat’s administration closed an eye to alleged wrongdoing by politicians … his inaction against Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri strenghtned the culture of impunity. The inquiry board also found that the campaign to dehumanise and denigrate Daphne was organised and led from within the Office of the Prime Minister.

The fact that the government mounted a hate campaign against the journalist, coupled with the inaction and indifference shown by the authorities even when Daphne exposed crime and corruption gave birth to a culture where the people who plotted and commissioned the murder felt they would get away with it, that it was OK to get rid of that pesky journalist the government hated so much.

The report paints a very real picture of how the rule of law broke down completely in Malta over the eight years of Muscat as Prime Minister, how a government propaganda machine turned against a formidable journalist and sent out the message that she was a nuisance that needed to be swept away.

Muscat’s inaction against the Panama duo gave the impression that it was OK to be corrupt, and the failure by the police to investigate and prosecute people high up in power and their businessmen friends strengthened the notion that “we won’t touch you if you’re one of our friends.” By extension, “we don’t touch you if our friends commissioned you to carry out the crime.”

The inquiry also pointed its finger at the entire Cabinet. It said that Muscat’s ministers were more interested in economic growth led by a select group of people, some of whom were implicated in corruption, rather than about protecting a journalist who was exposing corruption and upholding the rule of law.

When the time of reckoning came, these ministers backed Muscat, Mizzi and Schembri.

Prime Minister Robert Abela said yesterday that lessons must be drawn from the inquiry. This is true, and the government must waste no time in working to implement the recommendations of the inquiry and fix all that needs fixing.

But this goes beyond strengthening the authorities and avoiding past mistakes. It goes beyond protecting freedom of speech, beyond apologising to Daphne’s family.

It is also about the shouldering of responsibility.

Many of the Cabinet members referred to in the inquiry report are still ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries today.

Each one of them must do some deep soul searching and reflect on their future in politics.

We believe that anyone who was partly responsible for creating the atmosphere that led to the murder of a journalist has no place in politics.

As Opposition Leader Bernard Grech said yesterday, Abela must ensure that responsibility for this culture of impunity is shouldered.

 

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