Joseph Muscat has been named ‘Person of the Year’ for organised crime and corruption by a consortium of investigative journalists.
The Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project said that Dr Muscat’s “failed political leadership” was now “shaking the foundations – freedom of speech and rule of law – of the European Union”.
The Maltese prime minister beat US president Donald Trump, Mr Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and the son of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s longtime president to the dubious award.
An eight-person panel made up of journalists and editors with expertise in reporting on corruption and organised crime unanimously voted for Dr Muscat.
Dr Muscat joins a list of previous winners of the OCCPR’s yearly prize that includes strongmen such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijan’s Ilhan Aliyev, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte.
“Under Muscat’s leadership, criminality and corruption have flourished — and in many cases gone unpunished,” the OCCPR said.
The organisation highlighted the way Dr Muscat had acted throughout the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“Muscat has shown a total disdain for the media, free speech, and has allowed corrupt figures to order killings with impunity,” said one of the judges, who leads the Schar School of Government and Policy at George Mason University.
OCCRP played a key role in the Daphne Project, which brought together journalists from several countries to continue Ms Caruana Galizia's investigative work.
The project was led by French NGO Forbidden Stories, with OCCRP facilitating document sharing and assigning researches and reporters to investigate claims.
OCCRP is a non-profit media organisation that combines a network of 45 non-profit investigative centres in 34 countries, scores of journalists, and several major regional news organisations across Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.
In a tweet, Opposition leader Adrian Delia said he hoped the Labour Party leader contenders will "arrest" Dr Muscat the minute he returns from Dubai, where he departed for on Friday.