‘Yes, she was brave, but it has little value without a sense of justice and outrage’ - Peter Caruana Galizia
‘Malta needs to show the world that its regulations are robust’ – EU Commission Press room dedicated to Daphne inaugurated
Peter Caruana Galizia, the husband of the slain journalist, gave a moving speech to a standing ovation in memory of his wife at the European Parliament’s press room in Strasbourg, which will now be named after her, saying of her surreal murder; “when legal threats proved ineffective, only one solution was left. To say she was brave is true, but it has little value without a sense of justice and outrage.”
“She never grew cynical, she only grew more appalled; and the more frustrated she got, the more beautiful our garden grew, Daphne created a parallel world of beauty in a country that has slipped further away from European values.”
He went on to praise his three sons for possessing the same strength and integrity as their mother, and spoke of the 36 libel cases the family now faces.
“Even at her death her assets remained frozen because of the Minister for Economy.”
EP President Antonio Tajani who also spoke at the event said that, “half a billion Europeans will not accept a journalist being assassinated,” and reiterated his desire to find out who the killers were, and who had sent them.
The renaming of the press conference was symbolic, he said, because people will be constantly reminded to never lower their guard when it comes to freedom of expression and the press.
“We are not afraid of anyone who wants to restrict freedom, of anyone who wants to suffocate the free press, to undermine democracy,” Tajani said
Christoph de Loir, from reporters without borders, said that Caruana Galizia’s name will now be synonymous with the freedom of the press and bravery.
Tajani would not be drawn into a comment to questions asked by The Malta Independent, after it emerged that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was selling passports in Hong Kong on the day the rule of law in Malta was debated, and the press room was named after assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, something which Werner Langer of the EPP defined as ‘arrogance’.
“It is not my job,” Tajani said, “Muscat is not under my control, the problem right now is to know who the killers are, and who sent them.”
Pressed further as to whether this behaviour was symptomatic to the allegations that the rule of law in Malta had collapsed, Tajani once again proved reluctant to comment.
“We need to respect the rule of law, but we are not against or in favour of the government, our position is in favour of freedom, journalists, and who the killers are.”
European Debate on Rule of Law in Malta
Estonian Deputy Minister for EU Affairs Matti Maasikas, speaking on behalf of the council, opened the debate, the second of its kind within a couple of months, by saying that the freedom of the press is a vital pillar of democracy.
Maasikas said that the Maltese government has shown that it is determined to act, and that it had not hindered investigations (into the murder) and sought international assistance to ensure that no stone is left unturned.
Speaking on behalf of the commission, Frans Timmermans said that, “institutions must deliver to ensure that the perpetrators will be brought to justice; more generally Malta needs to show to Europe and the world, that its rules and regulations are healthy and robust.”
He said that the rules at European level need to be implemented on the ground; and that the fight against money laundering is key in this respect. With regards to Malta, he said there is no general concerns over Malta’s compliance, but improvements can be made, and that the commission has sent recommendations, specifically with regards to the FIAU.
Tanja Fajon, from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrat, disagreed that the rule of law and institutions had collapsed, and said that it was vitally important that the Maltese government conducted `an open and transparent investigation into the murder.
In reply, Frank Engel from the EPP told parliament, the socialists in particular, that they were not asserting that the rule of law hadn’t collapsed after Caruana Galizia’s death, but a long time before and that it was a consequence of the collapse.
This sentiment was echoed by PN MEPs Roberta Metsola and David Casa, with the former telling parliament that the country depended on the EU to guarantee that the rule of law is never undermined.
“This house is the last bastion of hope for the people we represent. We hoped that this house would guarantee that no politicians with delusions of grandeur will trample our rights without our European partners intervening.”
She went on to criticise the PM for calling those who spoke up against the government as traitors. “The commission cannot remain silent, the situation is desperate, stand with us and do not let us down now when we need you the most.”
Casa, while stressing the rule of law has collapsed in the country in the face of a culture of impunity, also criticised the commission and Timmermans specifically, saying that in spite of an official letter, a number of parliamentary questions, and a parliamentary debate on this issue in Malta, nothing was done.
Miriam Dalli admitted that the last weeks were difficult for the country, but disputed the unjust perception being presented in parliament.
“I ask, in a state where the rule of law has collapsed, would the government introduce party financing laws, a whistle blower’s act, a press act which will remove criminal libel and precautionary warrants, and one of the best LGBTI law ever enacted.”
Dalli said that members were at haste to condemn the country, without objectively examining the facts, clearly showing the double standards of some MEPs.
Former Prime Minister Alfred Sant said that in order to remain strong action must be taken by Parliament according to facts and due process, or it would lose its credibility.
He then said that the majority gained by the Labour Party in the last election and strong economic growth as evidence that the perception of the European Parliament is wrong, who he said is being led by other interests.