On the sixth anniversary of the murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, we, the undersigned organisations, renew our calls for Maltese authorities to bring to justice all those responsible for her killing and to implement in full the recommendations of the public inquiry into her assassination.
Caruana Galizia, who rose to prominence through her anti-corruption investigations and blogs, was killed by a car bomb in Malta on October 16, 2017. Three men have been convicted for the journalist’s murder and three other suspects await trial.
After pressure from the Caruana Galizia family and civil society, a public inquiry was set up in 2019 to investigate the circumstances that led to her death.
In its 2021 report, the public inquiry found the state had to “shoulder responsibility” for Caruana Galizia’s murder because it had created an “atmosphere of impunity” and failed to take reasonable steps to protect her. It found that the journalist’s assassination was predictable and preventable due to the collapse of the rule of law in Malta and made detailed recommendations for the authorities, including to create a safer environment for journalists.
For the last two years, our organizations have repeatedly drawn attention to the lack of progress in implementing the public inquiry’s recommendations to safeguard the media and improve journalists’ safety.
The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation has also repeatedly denounced the failure of Maltese authorities to address the corruption and abuse of power exposed by Caruana Galizia and other investigative journalists, which still contribute to an environment of insecurity that puts reporters at risk.
Maltese authorities should mark the sixth anniversary of Caruana Galizia’s death by making unequivocal statements in support of full justice for her murder, committing to implement the public inquiry’s recommendations, and guaranteeing a transparent consultation on pending legislation with the involvement of international media experts and civil society.
ARTICLE 19 Europe
Association of European Journalists
Committee to Protect Journalists
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
Five years ago today, investigative reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia was brutally assassinated in a car bomb attack in Malta. Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues. Together with them, we continue to fight for justice.
It is deeply saddening that we have issued a similar statement every year since Caruana Galizia’s murder. Today should be a day to remember and celebrate her fearless journalism, the far-reaching impact of her incisive writing on financial crime, abuses of power and deep-seated corruption, and her unwavering commitment to uncovering the truth and serving the public’s right to information.
Instead, we must yet again note that progress in criminal investigations and prosecutions has been minimal and intolerably slow. Impunity serves to embolden those who use violence to silence critical journalism and it ends only when all those responsible for the heinous murder have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law: the assassins, intermediaries and the mastermind must be brought to justice without further delay.
Similarly, we must point out the unacceptable lack of implementation of the recommendations made by the landmark Public Inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s assassination and the exclusion of structured public consultation, including with our organisations, on proposed legal amendments relating to the safety of journalists and SLAPPs, which in the latter case fail to meet international standards. The process provides a historic opportunity for the Government of Malta to implement its obligations under international and European legal and policy frameworks to create an enabling environment for journalism and to protect journalists.
The lack of political will to initiate the effective and systemic reform that is needed casts doubt on whether Malta’s political class has drawn any lessons from Caruana Galizia’s assassination. Where is the sense of urgency to fix the rotten power structures and dangerous conditions for journalists who report on them, violently exposed by the blast five years ago?
Access Info Europe
Access to Information Programme (AIP)
ARTICLE 19 Europe
Association of European Journalists-Belgium
Civic Alliance (CA) Montenegro
Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Corporate Europe Observatory
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
European Integrity Academy – AntiCorruption Youth Greece
Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)
Index on Censorship
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Institute for Regional Media and Information (IRMI) Ukraine
It shouldn’t have taken a murder. Surely it didn’t need a car bomb in a quiet Maltese town. Daphne Caruana Galizia did not need to die for Europe and the rest of the world to take notice of media freedom’s precarious foundations. But to our shame, it did.
Five years ago today, Daphne was murdered by a car bomb that exploded when she was moments from her front door. But the car bomb was only the mechanism by which she was silenced. Daphne was murdered by the opaque but powerful forces that first encourage, before demanding and eventually forcing silence. But she was never rendered mute, even now.
In the years that have followed, Europe has wrestled both with her legacy – what her investigations revealed – as well as the legacy of her killing – what her murder revealed. In the aftermath of similar killings in Northern Ireland (Lyra McKee), Slovakia (JánKuciak and Martina Kušnírová), Greece (Giorgos Karaivaz) and the Netherlands (Peter R. de Vries), as well as increased attention on the use of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), Europe has been forced to address an uncomfortable reality: journalists are at risk all across the continent. And so, by extension, is European democracy.
This is the dark light that bathes Europe, a light emanating from the brutal collapse of the rule of law but also a light that can illuminate what is broken. In the five years that have passed since her death, Daphne’s family have had to fight for every inch to demand both justice for Daphne and accountability for Malta. Whether this was to demand a public inquiry, pressing for progress in the criminal investigation, and putting SLAPPs on the European agenda, the rage, sadness and fury has fuelled a reckoning that has helped bring forward a proposed European Commission directive on SLAPPs, a Europe-wide coalition of organisations fighting to upend this form of lawfare, as well as similar movements at a national level.
In the UK, spurred on by Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine, the UK Government announced in July 2022 an anti-SLAPP mechanism that could limit how UK courts are abused to silence critical speech. As we wait to see what happens – especially after the change in Prime Minister and her cabinet – we hope we are at the threshold of something significant. It is important to remember that a number of the libel threats against Daphne were deployed with the aid of London-based legal expertise – SLAPPs cannot be confined within national borders.
But we must return to Malta to remind ourselves of the pitfalls. Recently announced reforms aimed at protecting journalism, including much-vaunted anti-SLAPP protections, have had to be hurriedly frozen by the Prime Minister after being widely derided as inadequate, both in terms of content, falling far short of the proposed EC Directive, and process. The Institute of Maltese Journalists (IGM) had threatened to step away from the Committee of Experts unless “meaningful” consultation takes place. This was echoed by both the International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) who have joined the call for the legislation to be withdrawn, as reported in Maltese outlet, NewsBook: “no proposal on media legislative reform should be submitted to the parliament without a transparent public consultation. This is all the more crucial in a country where a state holds some form of responsibility for the killing of a journalist.” While appearing to be fuelled by a desire to be the first EU nation to bring forward national legislation responding to SLAPPs, a grimy sense of competitive haste has seemingly triumphed over a commitment to genuine and meaningful protections.
Today, vigils remembering Daphne’s legacy – her life, her writing, and her commitment to the public’s right to know – are taking place across Europe, in London, Valletta, Brussels and Edinburgh to name a few. But wherever we are, we must ensure that by remembering Daphne’s life, we are reminded of our commitment to protect journalists against vexatious legal threats, physical attacks and every act that isolates, demonises or targets them.
Progress is slow and halting and will not proceed from one point to the next without obstruction – Malta’s current reform process is testament to that – however, the greatest way we can honour Daphne is by moving with purpose to ensure what happened to her cannot happen to another journalist. The dark light has illuminated what needs to change and the urgency with which it must change. It should not have taken the murder of a journalist for this to happen and we must not forget the darkness that sparked this push for greater protections, a darkness that robbed a family of the private space in which to mourn, but we must follow where the light leads. For in Daphne’s words, “There are crooks everywhere you look. The situation is desperate.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”117699″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]The following remarks were made by Caoilfhionn Gallagher, QC of Doughty Street Chambers, a member of the international legal team for the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia at a vigil on Friday 15 October 2021 at the Maltese High Commission to mark the fourth anniversary of Daphne’s assassination.
“We gather today in London to pay tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia and honour her memory, and to stand in solidarity with her bereaved family in Malta. On this, the fourth anniversary of her assassination, I wish to say four things.
“First, it is now ten weeks since the independent public inquiry in Malta published its detailed 437-page report, finding that the Maltese State should shoulder responsibility for her death. The damning report concluded that a culture of impunity was created from the highest echelons of power within the Castille. Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was singled out and identified as enabling this culture of impunity, and his entire cabinet was found to be collectively responsible for their inaction in the lead up to the assassination.
“The State, the report held, ‘created an atmosphere of impunity, generated from the highest echelons of the administration inside Castille, the tentacles of which then spread to other institutions, such as the police and regulatory authorities, leading to a collapse in the rule of law.’ The report laid bare endemic corruption and fundamental structural failures, the very subjects of Daphne’s reporting.
“The Government created a ‘favourable climate’ for anyone seeking to eliminate Daphne to do so with the minimum of consequences, giving a green light to her being treated as a target. The State also failed to recognise the real and immediate risks to Daphne’s life, and failed to take reasonable steps to avoid those risks. And a myriad of other systemic failings were identified which failed Daphne, failed her family, failed journalists, and failed the Maltese people.
“And yet, 10 weeks on, we remain without a meaningful response to that report by the Maltese Government. The Government has not even released an English translation of the 437-page report – what translations you have heard or read have been provided by the bereaved family and their lawyers, not the State. Even this basic step, to commit to transparency and enable the international community to understand what happened and hold Malta to account, has not been taken.
“Second, it is now four years since Daphne was brutally murdered, in an assassination which sent shockwaves across Europe. Daphne was a brilliant, brave, dogged investigative journalist, who honed her craft over decades, often sitting at her kitchen table where she spent her last few hours with her son Matthew.
“She was isolated in those final months and years, facing multiple oppressive law suits, threats of financial ruin, abuse on the street and online, dehumanising and misogynistic images circulating. And yet, there has still been no unequivocal acceptance of the horrors that she faced, let alone an unequivocal apology for it, from Malta.
“Third, I ask what should Malta now do? Daphne’s assassination followed decades of abuse. It occurred within a climate of impunity and negative rhetoric directed against Daphne and other journalists in Malta. Today, her family calls upon the Government of Malta to unequivocally condemn the climate of impunity and negative rhetoric identified by the public inquiry, which dehumanised her and fuelled her murder.
“There must be root and branch political and legislative reform.
“And above all, Daphne’s family must have meaningful involvement in what comes next. The family counts on the Prime Minister to consult with them and civil society on the foundational principles for the independent committee of experts due to be appointed following the inquiry report, and on Terms of Reference to implement those principles. This consultation process is an essential first step before the proposed roles of committee members are formulated.
“Fourth, I ask what should the international community now do? It is fitting that we are standing here in central London. Many of those threatening legal letters which bombarded Daphne in the final months and years of her life came from London law firms. Whilst that climate of impunity festered in Malta, the world stood idly by. The UK and other countries across Europe ignored what was happening under their noses, and left Daphne to her fate.
“On 6 October 2017, weeks before her death, Daphne wrote on her blog, ‘in journalism, as in many areas in life, you sometimes find the back-up you need a little too late.’ Well, one week ago the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two investigative journalists, one of whom, Maria Ressa, I am honoured to represent. The Norwegian Nobel Committee recognised their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, ‘a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.’
“The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to journalists is a welcome recognition of the bravery of journalists doing what Daphne Caruana Galizia did so brilliantly – holding the powerful and the corrupt to account. This is important back-up from the international community, albeit far too late for Daphne. In the decades leading up to her assassination, the world failed to act. They failed to act in 2017. Four years on, it is long past time for other States who clam to believe in the importance of freedom of expression – the UK, Council of Europe Member States, EU Member States, every single country which has signed up to the Media Freedom Coalition – to act. They failed Daphne then. Now, they must hold Malta to account and ensure the change Daphne’s family and Malta need and deserve comes to pass.”
The vigil for Daphne was co-sponsored by the Maltese community in London, ARTICLE 19, the Association of European Journalists, the Commonwealth Journalists Association, Index on Censorship, PEN International, Reporters Without Borders, and Transparency International-UK.