MEPs call on Maltese Government to take further action to address media freedom

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MEPs across the political spectrum called on the Maltese Government to carry out reforms which enhance the rule of law and media freedom, as they paid tribute to assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia the day after the fifth anniversary of her death.

In a plenary session debate in Strasbourg, most political groups put pressure on Maltese authorities to take seriously the recommendations of the public inquiry which had found the Maltese state partly responsible for the murder.

The EPP’s Manfred Weber said that the Maltese Government has not only failed to truly support those who sought justice, but actually obstructed justice. He recalled that the public inquiry found that the state should bear responsibility because of a culture of impunity and collapse of rule law. “It is unacceptable that a Government in an EU Member state is partly responsible for the assassination of a journalist”, calling on the European Commission to step up efforts to ensure that rule of law is enforced in malta. “Please stop turning a blind eye towards Malta’s action. We want justice to be served against the big fish who ordered the killing. We want justice against those involved in the corruption which dapgne exposed, include (former Prime Minister) Muscat and his friends” he insisted.

The Socialists took a milder approach, describing the assassination as an exposure of the limitations to the rule of law. MEP Thijs Reuten said that for justice to be served, all perpetrators and their accomplices must be held accountable as soon as possible. He went on to describe the Maltese Government as “a constructive partner that listens to the European Parliament and delivers the change we need to see.”

The Socialist MEP said that the current Maltese government took on urgent reforms that have produced meaningful change in the justice system. Reforms, like taking away the government’s role in appointing the police commissioner and in appointing various judicial posts, have strengthened judicial independence. “Tough reforms do not produce change overnight but recent developments are promising.”, he added.

Sophie in ‘t Veld on behalf of the Liberals argued that journalists are the oxygen of democracy and must be allowed to work. “Daphne died because she exposed wrongdoing and most of what she wrote about – turned out to be true – yet most of what she has investigated – hasn’t been investigated let alone brought to trial”.

The Dutch MEP also had a particular message to former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, cryptically advising him to use his lawyers to other issues “rather than writing to MEPs on what to say or not to say”.

The three Maltese Labour MEPs Cyrus Engerer, Alex Agius Saliba and Josianne Cutajar defended the Maltese government’s record, saying that the reforms were earning the respect of international institutions, including the European Commission. They also pointed out that Malta was being singled out for issues which existed in other EU countries.

PN MEP David Casa called for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was assassinated 5 years ago yesterday. “The assassins were caught. Now it’s the turn of the politicians and officials who played their part.” The real test for justice was the prosecution of all the politicians and officials who paved the way for her assassination and obstructed justice in the aftermath, he argued. “There is still a sore need for justice to be served against the crimes that she was killed exposing. On this point, we are still far behind”, Casa added.

A vote on a strongly-worded resolution, presented by the EPP, will be taken later this week. It is expected that Socialists will present a number of amendments, with a number of speakers describing it as partisan.

Image Copyright European Parliament (EP Audiovisual services)

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