The European Parliament will question the European Commission on the rule of law in Malta next Tuesday, following the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker or one of his deputies will make an initial statement in the Strasbourg Parliament and then take questions from the leaders of the eight European political parties.
The European Commission has already said it was “horrified” by the murder of Caruana Galizia, describing her as a pioneer of investigative journalism in Malta.
However, questions are now circling on whether the EC should have spoken out sooner and done more to pressure the Maltese government to safeguard Caruana Galizia and media freedom in Malta in general.
Silent vigil in honour of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.We condemn the horrifying attack in strongest possible way pic.twitter.com/CNPA13hhhf
— European Commission (@EU_Commission) October 18, 2017
Indeed, EC Vice-President Frans Timmermans – who is responsible for EU rule of law issues – had dismissed a warning by Nationalsit MEP Roberta Metsola back in February to speak out against what she described as threats by the Maltese government against Caruana Galizia and the local press.
Metsola had written to Timmermans in the wake of a €50,000 garnishee order which economy minister Chris Cardona had enforced on Caruana Galizia after having sued her over a report claiming he had visited a brothel while on government business in Germany.
“The administration of the day is engulfed by almost daily new allegations in the media of corruption and abuse of power, including having the dubious honour of having the only sitting minister in the EU whose secret financial vehicles were exposed by the Panama Papers leaks,” she wrote. “It is clear that government ministers have shifted gears and are now targeting individual journalists who work to expose the administration’s impropriety.”
Metsola had asked Timmermans to remind Malta of its obligation towards the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which states member states must protect journalist sand their freedom to write and report without fears for their safety.
However, Timmermans brushed off such warnings, saying the Charter “only applies to member states when they are implementing EU law” and “based on the information available, this does not appear to be the case in the events reported in your letter”.