Tuesday

22nd Jan 2019

Media bosses demand EU push Malta on journalist killing

  • EU commissionner Frans Timmermans paying homage to Daphne Caruana Galizia in Brussels on 17 October (Photo: European Commission)

[Updated on 3 November at 7.40] Directors of eight media groups in Europe and the US have called on the European Commission to use "all powers" to push for a full and independent investigation into the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

"We ask that you use your office to engage the Maltese government in urgent dialogue to ensure that it is aware of its obligations as a member of the European Union to uphold the rule of law, and to maintain press freedom and free expression," they said in a letter addressed to the Commission's first vice president Frans Timmermans.

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They insisted that an "independent inquiry" was "necessary."

The letter was signed by the heads of the Financial Times, the BBC and The Guardian in the UK, as well as of France's Le Monde, Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Italy's La Repubblica, Spain's El Pais, and the New York Times.

Caruana Galizia was killed in a bomb attack on her car when leaving her home in Malta on 16 October.


A columnist and blogger, she was mainly known for her investigations into corruption and her participation in the Panama Papers revelations.

An international media project, the Panama Papers revealed among other things that people close to Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat, including his wife, had secret offshore accounts.

The newspapers' directors said in the letter that the objective of Caruana Galizia's murder was to "silence her investigation into corruption at the highest levels in Malta."

They added that the murder "demonstrates the danger that journalists face in the pursuit of truth. It also demonstrates the fear that the corrupt and powerful have of being exposed."

"We request that you use all powers at your disposal to ensure that Daphne's death is fully investigated, and to send a clear signal of support to journalists working in the public interest, in Malta and all over the world," they said.

The letter was sent on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

In a reply sent to the editors late on Thursday, Timmermans said that the Commission wanted "the investigations to run their full course, so that any other related wrong-doings that may emerge can also be prosecuted and potential structural problems be resolved."

"We insist that the Maltese authorities leave no stone unturned to make sure that this atrocious, barbarous assassination does not lead to the situation that the perpetrators apparently want to achieve: that noone dares ask pertinent questions and no journalist dares investigate the powers that be," Timmermans said.

"This will not happen in Europe. Not on this Commission's watch."

In a debate at the European Parliament last week, Timmermans said that "it is the duty of the Maltese state to investigate and prosecute this case"

He added however that "under the treaties, the European Commission has limited powers" to investigate or force countries to investigate.

On Friday, Timmermans added in his letter, the Commission's Berlaymont HQ building will fly its flags at half-mast "in honour of Daphne Caruana Galizia and all those who have given their lives for the freedom of speech without which freedom is an empty shell."

Friday is Caruana Galizia's funeral. Neither Malta'a president nor prime minister Joseph Muscat will be present, at the request of the family.

 This article was updated on 3 November at 7.40 to take into account Frans Timmermans' reply to the eight editors. 

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

Agenda

All eyes on the EU budget This WEEK

The European Commission will next week unveil its ambitious proposal for the first EU budget without the UK. In the European Parliament, its the Belgian PM's turn to talk about the future of Europe.

Malta denies secrecy in 'Paradise Papers' leak

Malta's finance minister Edward Scicluna told reporters that the Maltese-based entities named in the latest tax avoidance leaks are all listed on a public register. "There was no secrecy whatsoever," he said.

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