A report compiled by press freedom NGO Article 19 and the Daphne Caruana Galizia foundation has laid bare the government’s failure to implement findings from the public inquiry into the journalist’s death.

The report, published on Thursday, charts how the government has “failed to implement” the inquiry’s recommendations, save for appointing a committee of experts on media.

Some of the recommendations so far ignored by the government include:

  • Outlawing mafia-style associations and abuse of office;
  • New provisions to punish obstruction of justice;
  • A specialised police unit to identify and protect at-risk journalists;
  • Revision to the freedom of information act to do away with the “culture of confidentiality”.

The report says it quickly became clear that just as it had taken a huge campaigning effort to get the public inquiry established and to keep it going in the face of government resistance, it would now take an equally significant campaigning effort to have the recommendations implemented in good faith.

“Five years after Caruana Galizia’s assassination and one year since the publication of the public inquiry report, there has been hardly any concrete action or meaningful legislative proposal to provide an enabling environment for journalists."

'Urgent action' needed

The report says that without “urgent action” from the government, there is a serious risk that the opportunity to fulfil the promise for meaningful reform presented through the inquiry’s landmark recommendations will be lost.

“European institutions and civil society must continue to maintain close scrutiny of the process."

An attempt by the Opposition to implement the inquiry’s recommendations via an “omnibus” bill was rejected in parliament by the government.

The Nationalist Party this week announced a second attempt to get its legislative proposals pushed through parliament. 

The report also notes how the inquiry’s recommendation for timely investigations into corruption uncovered by journalists, “profound delays” in prosecution corruption continue.

It notes how several high-profile cases continue to await the outcome of police investigations and the conclusion of magisterial inquiries.

These include investigations into the 2016 Panama Papers scandal and other investigations into other public contract negotiations that took place under the government led by Joseph Muscat as then Prime Minister.

‘A sparsely resourced inquiry’

The report also delved into the lack of resources made available to the inquiry, particularly when compared to the budgets and resources available to public inquiries elsewhere.

“Other than the use of the courtroom, the inquiry had little by way of resources: it had only been assigned the services of a deputy registrar. The inquiry had nothing else: no lawyers, no investigators, no media relations professionals, no website."

The one advantage of the “sparsely resourced” inquiry was that when the government threatened to shut it down, it had very little actual leverage.

By contrast, in the UK, it is estimated that the government spent €630 million on public inquiries between 1990 and 2017, the report says.

In the Netherlands, the permanent body that carries out public inquiries on issues concerning public safety has an annual budget of €13m.

In 2020, this allowed it to initiate four major inquiries alongside 117 smaller ones. In 2021, it started an investigation into the assassination of the investigative journalist, Peter R de Vries, the report says.


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