Caruana Galizia public inquiry: Two years later no legislative amendments to address recommendations

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Two years have passed since the public inquiry report into the circumstances into the death of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, and the government has not yet presented alternative proposals to the ones it shot down relating to corruption and organized crime, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation said on Saturday.

The public inquiry had concluded that the State must shoulder responsibility for the assassination of Caruana Galizia after a culture of impunity which infiltrated the country’s institutions had been created.

In its 437-page report, the inquiry concluded that although there is no proof that the State was actively involved in the murder, the culture of impunity was created from the highest echelons of power within former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s office at Castille.

In a damning conclusion, the report said impunity was “generated at the highest levels at the heart of the administration in Castile and like an octopus spread to other entities such as regulatory institutions and the Police leading to the collapse of the Rule of Law.”

On Saturday, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation it was encouraging to see a unified call for a public inquiry to ensure state accountability and full justice for Jean Paul Sofia’s unnatural death.

“A public inquiry is the only way for the State to learn how to prevent future deaths, but if the lessons learned are to save the lives of others, the State must follow through with swift and holistic change,” the statement read.

The foundation noted that despite the scathing conclusions in the inquiry report, Malta has still not redressed the systemic failures that enabled the journalist’s contract killing.

“The Maltese State is obliged to overhaul its laws, institutions, and systems of decision-taking to ensure that no journalist is ever killed again,” it said.

To date, the government has only implemented the setting up of a Committee of Experts to advise it on reforms.

The committee’s terms of reference tasked it with reviewing legislation to protect journalism but constrained it to ignore the other recommendations put forward by the inquiry board.

The government-drafted terms of reference excluded measures to address impunity, corruption and abuse of power from the Committee’s brief, even though efforts to protect journalism will fail without an equal effort to fight corruption and organised crime, the foundation said.

“An enabling and safe environment for journalists can only exist if Malta’s legislative and administrative framework ends impunity for corruption and the abuse of power, but years after Daphne exposed the corruption that paved the way to her murder there are still no prosecutions for the corruption itself.

“In parliament, government MPs were instructed to reject the only legislative proposals that addressed corruption and organized crime, but the government itself has still not presented alternative proposals of its own,” it said.

In January 2022, the Nationalist Party proposed a mega-bill to make the recommendations law. The bill proposed amendments to Malta’s Criminal Code and Constitution to bring laws in line with what the judges who drafted the Caruana Galizia inquiry report advised needed to change.

The proposals ranged from making obstruction of justice a crime to allowing the police to detain suspects in major crimes without charges for 72 hours instead of the 48 currently permitted.

However, the government had initially blocked the bill arguing that the “money bill” could only be placed on Parliament’s agenda with the President’s consent. The bill was then once again presented in parliament after the section which would constitute a “money bill” were removed.

The mega-bill was voted down by government MPs in parliament later that month.

“Malta urgently needs extensive reforms if journalists are to work without fearing for their lives. Perpetuating the State failures that enabled Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination leaves other lives in danger. Unless those systemic failures are eliminated, it is only a matter of time before someone else is killed,” the Foundation concluded.