The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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Reporters Without Borders highlights need for Malta to do more for the protection of journalists

Monday, 18 September 2023, 11:13 Last update: about 10 months ago

Updated at 16:28 with a reaction from the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has highlighted the need for Malta to do more for the protection of journalists.

In an article it published, RSF said that countries that have done little to implement the European Commission's two-year-old recommendation on journalists' safety must now move quickly to protect media professionals and combat impunity for violent crimes against them. When contacted by RSF, Bulgaria and Slovakia detailed measures that they plan to take, "but Malta and Poland just offered vague promises."

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On 16 September 2021, The European Commission issued its recommendation on safety of journalists following the murders of four journalists, one of whome was Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Europe during the previous four years.

Four governments spoke to RSF. A Maltese government spokesperson told RSF that Malta has "applied and is applying the measures enlisted by the European Commission" and that it is "determined to adopt legal changes." RSF reports, however, that the Maltese government "refuses to publish the report on press freedom reforms drafted by an advisory body on the adoption of the recommendations resulting from the public inquiry following Caruana Galizia's murder in 2017."

The Office of the Prime Minister has committed itself to publishing the full report of the Committee of Experts on the Media in the first sitting that Parliament returns from the summer recess, however has ignored calls for it to be published sooner. Almost 90 local journalists, columnists, researchers, and activists have urged Robert Abela to open proposals to reform Maltese media laws to public consultation, calling on him to "immediately publish the Committee's report and recommendations, following which, and before you take any legislative bill to Parliament, to launch an open and effective public consultation on a published White Paper which would include the bills and the intentions of the government."

In order to go further in implementing the European recommendations, RSF asked EU member states to: 1) "Conduct independent, effective and transparent investigation into crimes of violence against journalists. While France, Germany, Spain and Sweden largely respect this principle, the level at which these crimes are prosecuted is only moderate in Italy, is low in Greece, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and is non-existent in Bulgaria. Despite some judicial progress, all of the instigators of the murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017, Jan Kuciak in 2018 and Giorgos Karaivaz in 2021 have not yet been convicted."

2) Create or support mechanisms for cooperating with journalists with the aim of improving their safety. On Malta, it said that systematic cooperation between authorities and journalists is non-existent.

3) Launch or support dedicated assistance services for threatened journalists. It said that journalists in Bulgaria, Greece, Malta, Poland and Spain do not have any dedicated system and, at the national level, can only appeal to human rights organisations.

4) Take specific measures for protecting journalists while they are covering protests. "National authorities should, in particular, organise training for police, prosecutors and judges, establish a risk-mitigation strategy for journalists, and provide for effective communication between police and journalists during protests (...) To RSF's knowledge, no training or risk-reduction strategy has been implemented in Bulgaria, Greece, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Spain."

In a statement later in the day, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation said that the Maltese government’s statement to the RSF was “at best, deliberately vague and misleading.”

The Foundation said that the government “has not effectively applied any of "the measures enlisted by the European Commission" almost six years after Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination and more than two years after the publication of the report of the public inquiry into her murder.”

The Foundation added that the government is “determined to ignore half the recommendations of the public inquiry, criticising it for appointing a Committee of Experts on Media with a terms of reference which “excluded all of the public inquiry’s recommendations concerning the rule of law, unexplained wealth, and organised crime” and for voting against Opposition legal amendments to address these recommendations.

“Malta Government is hiding from public view the "legal changes" it is "determined to adopt", including from the very people those "legal changes" are meant to protect from harm,” the Foundation said, adding that the bills tabled in Parliament last October need to be replaced as they fail to meet international OSCE standards.

However, almost a full year later, Malta’s Government has still not publicly committed to publishing a White Paper on legal reforms to open up the process to public consultation, the Foundation said.

The Foundation said that the Office of the Prime Minister has repeatedly refused to publish the latest report drafted by the 'Committee of Experts on Media' on the adoption of the recommendations resulting from the public inquiry following Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder.

Furthermore the Foundation said that the government “has not yet redressed the conditions that enabled Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassination on 16 October 2017” and that “journalists in Malta are still obliged to work in an environment which made the murder of a journalist possible.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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