Leading European journalists' associations have jointly expressed concern about the attempt by a member of Yorgen Fenech's legal team to bribe Times of Malta journalist Ivan Martin

Times of Malta reported on Tuesday how Martin rejected between two and four €500 notes when they were physically handed to him by lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran towards the end of a meeting also attended by lawyer Charles Mercieca.

The police and the Chamber of Advocates have said they are investigating the case. 

In a statement issued through the  Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners, the organisations called on the Maltese authorities and Chamber of Advocates to ensure the matter is thoroughly and impartially investigated."

"We urge the Maltese authorities to duly investigate these events, in particular in light of Caruana Curran’s role in the high-profile criminal proceedings against Fenech and considering the fact that Malta has signed and ratified the European Criminal Law Convention on Corruption.

"We also urge Malta’s Chamber of Advocates to investigate whether the actions of Caruana Curran and Mercieca breached lawyers’ ethics and, if warranted, undertake the necessary disciplinary action," the centre said.

"Furthermore, in light of journalists’ commitment to the protection of sources and observing professional secrecy, we are highly concerned about the implications of these events and the subsequent messaging by Caruana Curran and Mercieca for the integrity of the journalistic profession and media freedom in Malta.

"Firstly, there is the appearance that Caruana Curran and Mercieca attempted to bribe Martin into providing more favourable coverage. So-called “envelope journalism” runs counter to media freedom and even an unsuccessful attempt to bribe a reporter undermines journalistic integrity and demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the media’s watchdog role in a democratic society.

"Secondly, the uncorroborated and inconsistent allegations about Martin in the subsequent communications by Caruana Curran and Mercieca attempt to impugn Martin’s professional and personal integrity. As such, they in themselves constitute an attack on media freedom and we urge Caruana Curran and Mercieca to stop spreading baseless misinformation and instead cooperate fully with investigations into their conduct," the MFRR said.

The statement was signed by The Association of European Journalists, The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), The International Press Institute (IPI),  OBC Transeuropa (OBCT) and The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation.

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