Malta: Killing of anti-corruption blogger must be thoroughly investigated

ARTICLE 19 calls for a full, independent and speedy investigation into the murder of investigative journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia, after she was killed by a car bomb in Malta on 16 October 2017. Galizia was well known in the country for investigating and exposing corruption by powerful political and other actors, including members of Malta’s governing and opposition parties. She had reported death threats to the police weeks before her death, which appears to be linked to her reporting. Her killing is an alarming attack on press freedom, and the perpetrator must be brought to account and measures taken by the Maltese government to further secure the safety of journalists following this attack.

Galizia’s reporting targeted corruption among some of Malta’s most powerful politicians – including a report on the so-called Panama Papers that implicated the Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, and his wife in a Panama-based company involved in questionable financial transactions through Azerbaijan. Like many of the subjects of Galizia’s reporting, the Prime Minister had previously sued Galizia for the allegations.

Attacks on journalists are intended to silence critical voices, and have a detrimental effect on free expression and democracy. Not only has a voice against corruption been silenced, but the chilling effect of such killings can mean others feel unable to report on wrongdoing by powerful figures. This brutal killing shows the risks faced by journalists for conducting their work and holding the powerful to account around the world, and those involved must be held to account if Malta’s obligations to protect journalists are to be upheld.

Given that Galizia’s work involved allegations against senior figures in Malta’s government and judiciary, in order to ensure a full, impartial investigation into her death, we urge the government to allow the investigation to be led and conducted by independent, external sources. The magistrate initially assigned to investigate the case, Consuelo Scerri Herrera, had to withdraw due to a conflict of interest, having previously sued Galizia for allegations against her in her blog. The Maltese government has reportedly requested the help of the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and it is clear that for justice to be done the government must step back to allow impartial investigations to take place.

“A free press, and critical journalism, are vital to democracy and exposing corruption. Galizia’s work enabled the public to access information on the alleged wrongdoings of their government, and to hold their elected leaders accountable,” said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. “This type of reporting must be allowed to continue in Malta, and this will only be possible where perpetrators are held accountable.”

In three weeks, the UN will be hosting its biennial global meeting on the Convention against Corruption in Vienna, which has been ratified by 183 countries, including Malta. We urge states at the meeting to take action to agree a resolution on improving protections for journalists and activists exposing corruption and facing serious risks as a result.