Ahead of the burial of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese journalist who was murdered two weeks ago, several international newspapers have turned to Brussels, asking the European Commission to investigate the independence of Malta’s media. The killing of Galizia was a reminder of the risks journalists are facing in their pursuit of the truth, the editors in chief write in their open letter to Frans Timmermans, vice president of the Commission. Galizia, who was well known for her investigative reports on corruption, was killed by a car bomb on October 16th.
Dear Vice-President Timmermans,
The shocking murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is an appalling reminder of the dangers that journalists and citizens practising journalism face every day, as they seek to uncover corruption and criminal behaviour by the rich and powerful.
Daphne’s murderers cannot be allowed to achieve their clear objective of silencing her investigation into corruption at the highest levels in Malta. We welcome your public comments stating that Malta must show to Europe and the world that its rules and regulations are healthy and robust.
As you are aware, in 2016 the European Commission’s media pluralism monitoring tool raised concerns about the lack of political independence of the Maltese media, finding that “Malta is the only EU country that has such extensive media ownership by the political parties.” That report also found that Malta scored poorly on editorial autonomy “mainly due to the lack of regulatory and self-regulatory measures that safeguard editorial independence in the news media”.
Daphne’s murder, combined with the structural issues the Commission identified, demonstrate the need for a full investigation into the state of media independence in Malta by the Commission. We ask that you use your office to engage the Maltese government in urgent dialogue to ensure that it is aware of its obligations as a member of the European Union to uphold the rule of law, and to maintain press freedom and free expression.
The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia demonstrates the danger that journalists face in the pursuit of truth. It also demonstrates the fear that the corrupt and powerful have of being exposed. We request that you use all powers at your disposal to ensure that Daphne’s death is fully investigated, and to send a clear signal of support to journalists working in the public interest, in Malta and all over the world.
Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief, the Guardian
Wolfgang Krach, editor-in-chief, Süddeutsche Zeitung
Dean Baquet, executive editor, The New York Times
Lionel Barber, editor, Financial Times
James Harding, director of news and current affairs, BBC
Mario Calabresi, editor-in-chief, La Repubblica
Antonio Caño, editor-in-chief, El Pais
Jérôme Fenoglio, director, Le Monde
The European Commission’s statement:
“For the European Commission there can be neither real democracy nor rule of law without free media. This is what we said clearly last week when the European Parliament discussed the barbarous assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Media freedom is not just a value per se, it also underpins all the other values we hold dear. If journalists are silenced, so is democracy.
We insist that the Maltese authorities leave no stone unturned to make sure that this atrocious, barbarous assassination does not lead to the situation that the perpetrators apparently want to achieve: that no-one dares ask pertinent questions and no journalist dares investigate the powers that be.
This will not happen in Europe. Not on this Commission’s watch.
The eyes of Europe are on the Maltese authorities. Answers need to be provided and crimes prosecuted. We want those directly and indirectly responsible for this horrible murder to be brought to justice. And we want the investigations to run their full course, so that any other related wrong-doings that may emerge can also be prosecuted and potential structural problems be resolved.
Tomorrow the flags at the Commission HQ will fly half-mast in honour of Daphne Caruana Galizia and all those who have given their lives for the freedom of speech without which freedom is an empty shell.