Journalist and activist Manuel Delia recently revealed that he would be leaving Malta for a temporary period, following death threats that he has been receiving from individuals accused of complicity in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Earlier this year, the public inquiry confirmed that the state would have to shoulder the responsibility of Caruana Galizia’s murder, after creating and sustaining what was described as a “state of impunity.”
His departure and the hateful comments that followed confirm that absolutely nothing has been learned from the public inquiry linked to the gruesome assassination.
The public inquiry made it clear that “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.”
For Malta’s police to achieve this, it would need an ad-hoc structure or an internal department that would address these concerns of threatened safety. It would also need to set up a unit to deal with journalists’ concerns, which would act as a primary point of contact when their safety is under threat.
Ultimately, the Board emphasised that the police must start to value journalistic work and investigate serious allegations when they are made.
The board on the inquiry, comprising of three judges, had highlighted that had this been done, the threat on Caruana Galizia’s life would have been significantly lessened.
The Board had also suggested the creation of an independent Commissioner of Journalistic Ethics to implement laws and regulations designed to protect the freedom of the media, the safety of journalists, and the right to information, as well as a code of ethics designed specifically for journalists.
Still, journalists have continued to be attacked in the months that followed the inquiry, most notably with the latest misinformation campaign – but no one has been arrested or charged.
This raises concerns on whether police even have the capabilities to address threats against journalists, which are becoming more sophisticated.
It appears that even individuals within the industry itself have failed to learn the necessary lessons from the public inquiry, with the editor of The Shift News Caroline Muscat discrediting Delia’s claims yesterday, instead of offering her support to another journalist who is facing pressure.
While every threat should be taken with the utmost severity by police, journalists must also work to differentiate between disagreements, insults, and threats themselves. It is also important that journalists do not politicise these kinds of attacks, because they can turn the issue partisan, and trivialise a matter that should be a major cause for concern.
However, the country is now facing yet another journalist fleeing the country out of fear for his safety, with others also receiving several threats. This reality shows the existence of very real concerns over the police’s ability to adequately protect him in the country.
So it begs the question, have these recommendations been implemented within our system? Or will journalists forever live in fear over their work?
Delia’s announcement was met with some condemnation, however, comments boards were flooded with hateful comments from users who showed a complete lack of empathy towards someone whose life is being threatened.
That same lack of empathy for a journalist who has every reason to fear for his safety is just another by-product of impunity, and it seems that the same culture of impunity that isolated Caruana Galizia when the nation needed her most is yet to be addressed.
Journalists deserve to operate within a safe space, and Malta’s police need to be prepared to deal with the event of a threat to one’s safety in an effective and immediate manner.
While it is a start that the Prime Minister has condemned the threats, the real issue lays in the fact that a journalist in Malta would rather go abroad for his own safety, than seek the help he needs from his own country’s institutions.
What do you make of this?