A public inquiry into the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia begins tomorrow in Malta, with press freedom groups urging “full transparency” during the process.
The inquiry opens just over two years after mother-of-three Caruana Galizia was killed aged 53 by a car bomb. She had been investigating money laundering and corruption in Malta at the time.
Groups including Article 19 and Reporters Without Borders, who have campaigned for justice for the Caruana Galizia family, have said they will closely monitor the inquiry, which is expected to last nine months.
They also urged media and governments to keep a close watch on proceedings, describing them as a “critical mechanism to ensure the whole truth emerges” in the case of Caruana Galizia’s murder.
In a joint statement, 12 free expression groups said: “It is essential for ensuring that lessons are learned and implemented to protect other journalists in Malta who remain at great risk.
“We urge full transparency in the process of the public inquiry, in particular that information pertaining to the inquiry is made publicly available in a timely fashion.”
Events in Malta have moved quickly in recent days after three senior Maltese government officials stepped down in connection with an ongoing police probe into Caruana Galizia’s death.
They include former chief of staff Keith Schembri, who was questioned by police for two days before being released without charge, the Times of Malta has reported.
Their resignations followed the arrest of Maltese hotelier and power company director Yorgen Fenech, who is suspected of being the mastermind behind the journalist’s assassination.
Three people suspected of killing Caruana Galizia have been arrested, but are yet to go on trial.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said he will resign, but has yet to do so, amid public protests demanding justice.
A delegation of MEPs who visited Malta over the last couple of days have said they are “deeply concerned” that Muscat’s delayed resignation poses a risk to the integrity of the murder investigation.
MEPs met Muscat, government members, the police and other authorities as well as members of Caruana Galizia’s family as part of a fact-finding mission in Malta, the third since the journalist’s death.
They said they “remain unconvinced” that Muscat has “acted judiciously in the last few weeks”, including in his decision to remain in office until mid-January and transition power for his ruling Labour party.
In a statement, the European Parliament said: “MEPs remain concerned that, with Prime Minister Muscat in place, integrity is at risk.”
Lead delegate, Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, said: “We came to Malta with deep concerns, and we leave not reassured.
“The rule of law under pressure, impunity for crimes, widespread corruption, journalists intimidated and harassed, the right of assembly thwarted and politics descended into toxic bipartisanism.
“Malta is a part of Europe; what affects Malta, affects Europe. Europe must monitor this situation closely, and press for far-reaching constitutional reforms.
“We stand by the people of Malta, who deserve clean government and officials with integrity.”
Speaking at the launch of his book into the murder of Caruana Galizia, Murder on the Malta Express, in London last night, ex-BBC journalist John Sweeney called for Muscat to immediately resign.
The book’s co-author Manuel Delia revealed his wife had been attacked and he had also faced intimidation and harassment in Malta as a result of reporting on Caruana Galizia’s murder and government failings.
Malta has been described as a Mafia state, with Delia saying an accepted culture of “dirty money” and its protection was behind her death.
Picture: Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi