A public inquiry report linked to the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has been published and has issued a long list of crucial recommendations that the government must adopt in the wake of the damning report.
Beyond the state being ordered to issue a formal official apology for its role in failing to protect Caruana Galizia, the inquiry board is demanding major reforms in the police force, the relationships between businesses and government, and the protection of journalists.
“There is a prevailing mentality in society which reinforces the arrogance of the possessor of political and economic power. It is the seed that has spawned corruption,” the board said.
The full list of the recommendations can be found below:
- The police and all other regulatory authorities must continue investigations to identify all persons in any way involved in the murder and ensure that they are all accountable to the courts
- Ensure that the recommendations by the Venice Commission, the Greco Commission, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament’s “legal affairs committee” to strengthen good governance are implemented,
- Amendments to the criminal code governing financial institutions and others should be introduced to ensure that the government does not develop a de facto state of impunity, which was established by the board.
- People cannot feel that they can carry out serious crimes because they are in a position of power, politically, economically, or criminally.
- It is essential that laws ensure that anyone in breach must suffer the consequences of their actions, and must not use money to brush over issues. The board said this was a “prevailing mentality in society which reinforces the arrogance of the possessor political and economic power. It is the seed that has spawned corruption.”
- Legislative reform must be reflected and reinforced by practices that effectively regulate relations between public officials and business people.
- Laws must be amended to prevent abuse, most notably in the laws governing whistleblowers, the financing of political parties, and the awarding of contracts including tenders and direct orders.
- Laws must also be strengthened to ensure that undercover trading between public administrators and business people is not allowed – notably demanding that all contact must be made through official communication.
- Lobbying laws governing contacts between investors and traders must also be introduced.
- A change in mentality within the public administration is essential to avoid a state of impunity with mafia connotations through policy decisions.
- A law combatting financial crime, including bribery and corruption through “Unexplained Wealth Orders”, is needed
- A specific offence for persons in public office who obstructs or attempts to obstruct the Police or other authorities in the performance of their duties, including criminal investigations.
- A law criminalising a mobster associated with a crime.
- A new crime concerning abuse of office must be introduced into the Maltese Criminal Code.
- The law governing the Attorney General must be revised to ensure it follows all the recommendations of the Venice Commission, particularly with regards to full control over the investigation of serious crimes along with the Police.
- A law criminalising the obstruction of justice must be introduced.
- Legislative provision and a Code of Ethics criminalising the misconduct of public officials in the performance of their duties is needed.
- The police must work to provide better protection and identify those who are at serious risk. In the case of journalists, this means timely and effective investigations.
- A formal ad-hoc structure in the Police Force should be created to address these concerns. This should be a specialised unit with trained people able to identify which persons are at risk, make an objective assessment of that risk, why that risk is apparent, and how this relates to the person’s work.
- The unit should also have a specialised section dealing specifically with journalists, acting as the first point of contact to deal with safety concerns.
- Police must also value journalistic work as a key contributor in the fight against crime – and must promptly and effectively investigate allegations made by a journalist. The board said that had they done so, the risk to Caruana Galizia’s life would have been greatly reduced.
- Measures must also be taken to deal with questionable relationships and contacts between police officers, public administration, and big business.
- The Corps must also have an understanding of the role of the journalist as a guardian of democracy in the country and the value of journalism as a valid collaborator with law enforcement to ensure the rule of law.
- Police must create bridges and a means of contact between themselves and journalists to help them continue their investigations and verify the serious allegations in journalist’s investigations.
- The Constitution must be amended to recognise that free journalism is one of the pillars of a democratic society and that the State must guarantee and protect it.
- An amendment must also be introduced to recognise the right of an individual to receive information from the State and public administration and they are obliged to provide such information.
- An independent Commissioner of Journalistic Ethics should be created to implement laws and regulations designed to protect the freedom of the media, the safety of journalists, and the right to information.
- A code of ethics for journalists should also be established.
- The constitutional provisions establishing the Broadcasting Authority must be amended, with the board noting that the public service broadcaster failed in its duty to impartial reporting when it did not correctly report on serious allegations on corruption.
- The board also noted that it is wrong to believe that political party stations are in line with the law because they balance each other out.
- The Freedom of Information Act must be revised to limit the cases in which the government arbitrarily refuses to provide information that is of interest. “The culture of confidentiality and secrecy under the pretext of privacy or commercial prejudice has little to do with democracy when it comes to the administration of the common good which must always be transparent and accountable,” the board said.
- SLAPP suits must be addressed by the government, and ensure that libel suits do not continue after one’s death.
- The board made reference to the precarious financial situations within Media Houses and how many depend on government advertising. The funds, the board says, must be distributed in a fair, equitable, and non-discriminatory manner.
- Laws must be introduced to reflect the important role the media plays in a democratic society and ensure the profession is self-regulated.
- A holistic and organic framework aimed at improving the profession should be introduced – along with protections that will be enshrined in the constitution.
- The reform to the sector must be lead by a committee of experts, academic, law experts, journalists, and media houses.
- The state must formally and publicly admit the serious shortcomings of the administration surrounding the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
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