Prime Minister Robert Abela has pledged to do everything possible to strengthen the journalistic profession and to embark on a number of reforms to ensure the safety of journalists.
The Prime Minister was speaking in Parliament this morning during an emergency debate about the findings of the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia where he pledged to implement the inquiry’s recommendations after consulting with all relevant stakeholders.
Scrutiny of public figures is essential
He said that unlike many of his colleagues, he was never a journalist, but appreciated the difficulty and importance of the job nonetheless.
“Journalism can instigate change, advance in social justice and the fight for what is good,” he said, adding that he felt that the inquiry’s recommendations on the protection of journalists were of particular importance.
Discussions had already taken place with the Institute of Maltese Journalists but further meetings would be held to discuss the recommendations and their implementation.
“Journalism needs to be given space to flourish,” Abela said. “Scrutiny is important. If you don’t want to be scrutinised you shouldn’t be a public figure. If as a country we don’t understand this we would have learned nothing.”
He said that Europe was passing through a dark period, with several journalists killed across the continent. The Maltese government, he said, was committed to supporting any efforts underway on a European level to protect journalists better.
Politics and business are not the same
Turning to concerns raised by the inquiry about the proximity of the country’s politicians to big business, Abela stressed that the choices he had made when selecting his team showed that he believed in this, unlike his predecessor.
That said, he said business wasn’t some plague and was an essential part of the country. The vast majority of Maltese businesses were law-abiding and wanted what was right, he said. “They will continue to find all the support they need to continue creating wealth.”
No need for blame game
Abela stressed that the country now needed to move forward with a sense of unity and respect towards each other, irrespective of any differences of opinion there might be.
He said he was saddened by recent reports of racist and homophobic attacks. “These incidents sow the seeds of hatred that can then lead to worse incidents.”
Malta needed to learn that some things that it might have accepted in the past just because “it has always been that way” should be challenged and changed.
He said that his reaction to the inquiry was not going to be one of confrontation. “We can choose to play a blame game but we can also take a constructive approach to implementing the recommendations, if not go over and above them.”
“Today we have an opportunity to serve as an example and show that we can disagree but we can still respect each other,” Abela said.
He again apologised to the Caruana Galizia family, saying that he wanted to do so again for it to be recorded in Parliament.
“I am making the apology myself as the head of the government because it is not the people that must carry this burden. This murder does not represent the people or what they believe in,” he said.
Implementation of inquiry recommendations
The Prime Minister insisted that the manner in which the state operated today was nothing like the way it did in January 2020, when he was appointed, or any other point before that.
Abela said the government would be embarking on a process to implement the recommendations made by the inquiry.
He said the government would be taking responsibility for the implementation of the reforms as it had done with the Venice Commission, adding that it would be consulting with all stakeholders who had something to offer.
The inquiry’s recommendations, he said, would not be easy to implement because they represented a big change in the country’s mentality but they were also necessary to achieve justice for Caruana Galizia.
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