European Parliament concerned about possible gov’t involvement in Malta journalist slaying, amid declining press freedoms in region

European lawmakers on Thursday adopted adopted a resolution where they expressed concern about the possible involvement of ministers and political appointees in the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

„End political protection and patronage of murderers,” the strongly-worded message to the Maltese government read, Shift News reported.

European Parliament lawmakers urged the Maltese government to bring to justice all those implicated in cases brought to light by the journalist.

They adopted a resolution in a 635-46 vote calling for justice in the case and related investigations. They also asked for further steps to protect EU values in Malta.

Bribes

Caruana Galizia was murdered in October 2017 as she investigated a web of companies she believed were funneling bribes to Maltese politicians.

Thursday’s vote comes amid concerns about deteriorating press freedoms in Central and Eastern Europe,

Media freedom

A report by Reporters Without Borders released last week said media freedom suffered in Central and South East Europe during the pandemic. It pointed out increasing government censorship and attacks on journalists.

In 2020, there was a “dramatic deterioration in people’s access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage”, the RSF report says.

Romania was in the 48th position, the same as last year, while Moldova climbed two places to 89th position. The report said access to information remains a major problem for journalists in there, particularly during the pandemic.

Romania ranks lower than Czechia and Slovenia for press freedoms and is better than Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria. The latter is in 112th position, and is the lowest EU country in the rankings, which is “very worrying because no one is interested in investigating or condemning violence against journalists”, the report says.

Renew Europe

Pro-European political group Renew Europe called on the Maltese government to commit to the fight  against corruption and threats to the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights ahead of Thursday’s vote.  

“Only when we have clarity about who ordered the murder, and the cases she was investigating, will we have some justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia,” a statement read.

Convicted criminal Vincent Muscat, known as ‘Il-Kohhu’ confessed to the crime, but lawmakers expressed concern regarding the possible involvement of ministers and political appointees in the case. 

Rule of law

Lawmakers agreed that there are serious and persistent threats to EU values in Malta, naming media freedom, judicial and police independence, and the freedom of assembly.

They noted that the Maltese government made some progress in relation to the rule of law and judicial independence.

The lawmakers also acknowledged the steps taken by the Maltese authorities to protect independent journalism, stressing that further improvements are needed. It called on Maltese authorities to implement the EU whistle-blower directive.

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