Caruana Galizia public inquiry recommendations still not implemented, say NGOs

Civil society denounces government’s lack of ambition and transparency in press freedom reforms and renews calls for full justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia

On Friday, brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio pleaded guilty to the fatal bombing of Caruana Galizia, and were sentenced to 40 years in prison each
On Friday, brothers Alfred and George Degiorgio pleaded guilty to the fatal bombing of Caruana Galizia, and were sentenced to 40 years in prison each

International press organisations and NGOs have called out what they said was the “unacceptable lack of implementation” of the recommendations made by the landmark Public Inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

Marking the fifth anniversary of the journalist’s murder in a car bomb outside her Bidnija home on 16 October, 2017, the 36 NGOs – which include PEN International, ARTICLE 19 Europe, and the International Federation of Journalists – said the Maltese government’s proposed law against SLAPP lawsuits failed to meet international standards.

The Maltese government’s proposed Bills for press reform are now set to go for a public consultation, harnessed by representatives of the Maltese newspaper industry and journalists, led by retired judge Michael Mallia, who chaired the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

“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. However, justice for the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia could now be making progress. The government must now protect those who continue her legacy,” the NGOs said.

The NGOs welcomed the sentencing of George and Alfred Degiorgio, the triggermen who killed the journalist, sentenced to 40 years in jail. “This is a welcome development although legal proceedings against the suspected bomb suppliers as well as the suspected mastermind remain pending.”

The courts are yet to try alleged bomb suppliers Robert Agius and Jamie Vella, as well as suspected mastermind Yorgen Fenech, the millionaire shareholder in the Delimara gas plant whose secret Dubai offshore company was connected to secret Panama firms owned by former energy minister Konrad Mizzi and former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri. Agius’s brother Adrian stands accused of commissioning the death of lawyer Carmel Chircop, a creditor to the More Supermarkets chain in which Agius had a silent stake.

“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: all the potential intermediaries and mastermind(s) must be brought to justice,” the NGOs said.