Civil society group Repubblika on Friday filed a fresh request for an inquiry into a privatisation deal for three state hospitals, just one day after an appeals court blocked the start of such an inquiry. 

In a statement, the NGO expressed its concern at Thursday's ruling by judge Giovanni Grixti, which quashed an earlier decision by magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit to order an inquiry into allegations of criminal responsibility by ministers Edward Scicluna, Chris Cardona and Konrad Mizzi in the sale of three public hospitals to Vitals Global Healthcare. 

The judge found that investigations by journalists in newspapers or online were not a suitable basis for starting an inquiry. 

The NGO said it "respectfully disagreed" with the court's judgement. 

"In democracies the work of journalists is an indispensable component of the functioning of the rule of law.

"Investigative journalism publishes what institutions fail to do and provoke therefore those same institutions to make up for their failure and act", the NGO said. 

It said Thursday's judgement was an example for all institutions to ignore what is published in the media and assume that whatever crimes public figures are found to have committed by journalistic investigations should be presumed to be untrue.

Vitals Global Healthcare took control of St Luke's, Gozo General and Karin Grech hospitals in 2015 for a 30-year period. A heavily-redacted version of the concession deal contract was released in 2016.

The company, which had no previous experience in the sector, had its shares bought out by US healthcare giant Steward less two years later. 

A fresh application for an inquiry, updated with more information made available since the original submission in May, had been filed by lawyer Jason Azzopardi on Friday morning, the NGO said. 

The NGO had accused ministers Konrad Mizzi, Chris Cardona and Edward Scicluna of being complicit in an act of modern day piracy

"There is no such thing as a right to not being investigated but that is exactly what yesterday’s decree and a similar decision earlier this year quashing an order for an inquiry into the Panama Papers has established. 

"We hope that the judiciary does not share the view expressed in yesterday’s judgement that the work of journalists should be at best ignored by the state’s institutions, at worst suppressed", the NGO maintained. 

To link the presumption of innocence to the alleged absence of “facts” other than “opinions of bloggers and newspapers” amounts to a prevarication of the facts as stated in Repubblika’s application, the statement continued. 

The NGO expressed its fear that Thursday's ruling would enhance the "tragic impression" many journalists have that the state’s institutions have organised themselves to immunise each other from whatever wrongdoing that may be revealed about them through the work of journalists. 

"The authorities must be made to understand that the dismantling of our democracy is not occurring with the acquiescence of the public". 

Repubblika urged people to join us in its Demonstration for Truth and Justice in Valletta on October 16 at 7pm. 

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