Malta must create and maintain an enabling environment in which the press is able to carry out its essential democratic function, Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family said.
In a statement issued in remembrance of the journalist’s life and work on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of her assassination tomorrow, the family called upon the government to ”unequivocally condemn the climate of impunity and negative rhetoric” identified by the public inquiry into her murder.
The family said it was renewing its commitment to ensuring justice for the murder and for lessons to be learnt.
They recalled that the inquiry found the state must bear responsibility.
“By doing so the inquiry handed Malta a historic opportunity to transform itself from the country known for the bomb blast that took Daphne’s life to a country recognised for its response to that trauma.”
The family said the objectives of the reforms recommended by the inquiry and their fundamental importance to the country are clear: a truly free and independent press is essential to a functioning democracy and it must be robustly supported and protected.
The work to build an enabling environment for press freedom should follow a clear timeline aimed at bringing about cultural, political and legislative reform, it said.
The family added that this must be led by an independent committee of international and Maltese experts mandated to recommend legal amendments to parliament on strengthening press freedom, in addition to non-legislative recommendations, such as on appropriate protection mechanisms for journalists as well as measures to address the negative and prejudicial political rhetoric targeting the press.
The terms of reference for the committee should reflect the country’s level of ambition to transform itself into a positive role model for press freedom, the family said.
These should include relevant, pre-set criteria that committee members should meet.
“Apart from having the necessary integrity and independence from government, as a minimum, these criteria should include expertise in the role of media in a democracy and expertise in constitutional reform to entrench press freedom as the fourth pillar of democracy.”
The family noted that the public inquiry report also speaks of fighting corruption and money laundering, saying this is where the threat to journalism in Malta and most of Europe is strongest.
“Efforts to protect journalism will fail without an equal effort to fight the scourge of corruption, and this fight can never be won without a strong press. Both challenges need to be addressed in the reform process. As part of this, we urgently need to see prosecutions for the corruption that paved the way to Daphne’s murder.”
The family said that Caruana Galizia's assassination followed “decades of abuse”, the murder taking place “within a climate of impunity and negative rhetoric directed against Daphne and other journalists in Malta”.
It said it must also have meaningful involvement in what comes next, adding that it counted on the Prime Minister to consult with them and civil society on the foundational principles for the independent committee, and on meaningful terms of reference.
“This consultation process is an essential first step before the proposed roles of the committee members are formulated and consulted upon,” it said.
Daphne's legacy lives on - US embassy
In another statement, the US embassy said it “strongly supports” the rule of law and the vital role of a free and independent press around the world.
It condemned those who would employ violence to silence dissenting voices.
The embassy welcomed the inquiry’s “thorough and incisive report” on the murder and supported the government’s commitment to implement its recommendations.
“We continue to call for a thorough, transparent, timely, and credible conclusion to the investigations into the murder. We reiterate that strong judicial processes and accountability are essential to the just conclusion to this case, which will reassure journalists everywhere that their voices are valued.”
The embassy said that four years after her death, Daphne Caruana Galizia’s legacy lives on in the Maltese media and civil society organisations, “which relentlessly scrutinise the authorities, exercising their role as guardians of democracy and rule of law”.
Meanwhile, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović is expected to release a statement in which she will call on the Maltese authorities to identify and prosecute all those responsible.