Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has insisted that he was prepared to drop libel suits if the family of the late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia accepted the conclusions of the Egrant inquiry.
“I will repeat what I have said before, including in court: I have no interest in these court proceedings. All I want is that the family acknowledge the report,” Dr Muscat said when asked about the matter on Friday morning.
When asked how he was expecting the family to acknowledge a report that they had not seen, Dr Muscat said the magistrate had prepared the report that could be made public and this was published.
“I have no problem publishing the rest of the report. There is a court case about this. There is nothing that changes the findings. As far as I know, the Caruana Galizia family did not drop libel proceedings Ms Caruana Galizia had filed against other people, as was their right. But when Minister (Chris) Cardona and another person dropped libel proceedings against Ms Caruana Galizia, the family sued them for the expenses."
"As I said, all I want is that the family acknowledged the report,” Dr Muscat said.
The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights wrote to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat urging him to drop any pending defamation suits against Ms Caruana Galizia’s family.
In a letter sent to Dr Muscat last week, Dunja Mijatović wrote that the 30 civil defamation suits that still stood against the murdered journalist not only raised issues of concern for the Caruana Galizia family but also to the protection of media freedom and to the rule of law on the island.
In his reply, Dr Muscat said the government could not “interfere in, abolish or truncate” civil action because it would raise issues on the “right to a fair trial under the European Convention of Human Rights”.
The Caruana Galizia family recalled that when Dr Muscat said that he would drop his cases if the family accepted the findings of the Bugeja inquiry, they said they will not concede to extortion by public servants. "Our position on not accepting blackmail will never change," the family said.
Dr Muscat is among those who launched defamation proceedings against Ms Caruana Galizia, who died in a car bomb explosion in October 2017.
He said he would “be ready to drop this libel case if the Caruana Galizia family makes a declaration to the effect that they accept the findings of the Egrant Inquiry”. The inquiry did not find any evidence that the Prime Minister’s wife owned the Panama company, as had been alleged by the murdered journalist.
The letter is the latest criticism by the Council of Europe levelled at the government. It has condemned the state of rule of law in Malta, raised concerns about the investigation into Ms Caruana Galizia’s death and called for the government to establish a public inquiry into the assassination.
Three men have so far been charged with carrying out the assassination but the masterminds remain at large.