No politicians were interrogated in connection with Daphne Caruana Galizia’s car bomb murder, a police inspector leading the investigation told MEPs.
Police Inspector Keith Arnaud said during a meeting with members of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) there was no reasonable suspicion to justify such interrogations, sources in Brussels said.
The Maltese authorities’ representatives present for the Brussels meeting had not volunteered any fresh information on the case to the MEPs, and many of them left with unanswered questions, the sources added.
Assistant Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta, who headed the murder investigation until he was ordered by a judge last month to recuse himself because of a conflict of interest, said in court earlier this year that he could not exclude the possibility that a politically exposed person had been the mastermind in the case.
“Nobody is excluded,” Mr Valletta, the husband of Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana, told the Constitutional Court.
The Daphne Project, a consortium of media houses, including the Times of Malta, from different countries, reported in April that no politicians had been interviewed during the investigations, citing a source familiar with the probe.
The silence has lasted for too long
The slain journalist was a vocal critic of the Labour Party and had even shifted her focus to Opposition leader Adrian Delia in the months before her murder last October. A number of politicians from both political parties featured in her work.
The meeting with Mr Arnaud and the representatives of the Maltese authorities was held behind closed doors, though it formed part of a public session during which the European Parliament’s Committee discussed the rule of law and the safety of journalists.
During the public session, the EU’s representative and advocacy manager Tom Gibson, from the Committee to Protect Journalists, expressed concern that journalists were not being approached by sources because they feared repercussions.
“We need to ask what happens if the member state can be linked with the murder of a journalist? What if the interest of the State is similar to that of the killers?
“The dangers need to be framed in terms of complex threats. Harassment, smear campaigns and threats of legal action are not always reported, and yet, all of this can contribute to self-censorship, which can be hard to measure or report on,” he said.
Mr Gibson pointed out that Ms Caruana Galizia had been a significant example of someone who was working on important issues before she was murdered and who was doing so alone, noting that even “her own government vilified her”.
Forbidden Stories founder Laurent Richard, who coordinated the Daphne Project, told the MEPs the Maltese authorities’ refusal to answer any questions from journalists was unprecedented.
“The Maltese authorities need to understand it is vital for a democracy in the EU to take questions and take interviews. How can you say you protect journalists and freedom of the press, but then on the other hand, you do not provide any answers?
“The silence has lasted for too long.
“It is the opposite of what goes on in a healthy democracy,” he charged.
Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola, who attended the hearing, told the Times of Malta that the sitting had sent the message that the European Parliament would not allow the murders of both Ms Caruana Galizia and Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak to be swept under the carpet.
“Nor will we turn away from addressing the underlying issues of the rule of law and media freedom that the assassinations so shockingly exposed.
“Today’s hearing gave rise to many questions and yielded few concrete answers. The fact that not one politically exposed person has been interviewed in Malta, for example, despite the clear focus of Ms Caruana Galizia on political corruption in the government is something that worried everyone in the room,” Dr Metsola said.
Resorting to SLAPP lawsuits to silence journalists had also been brought up during the hearing, she said.
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