A PUBLIC INQUIRY has found that the Maltese state must “shoulder responsibility” for the October 2017 assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, having created an atmosphere of impunity, and having failed to recognise the real and immediate risks to Caruana Galizia’s life or to take measures to prevent her assassination.

The inquiry’s report concluded: “While there is no proof that the State per se played a role in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, for reasons amply shown in the body of this report, the State has to shoulder responsibility for the assassination because it created an atmosphere of impunity, generated from the highest levels in the heart of the administration of the Office of the Prime Minister.”

Rebecca Vincent, Director of International Campaigns at Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said: “We welcome the publication of the public inquiry report, which on initial review appears reflective of the independent nature of the board of inquiry. We will continue to analyse the full report in the coming days and will work to hold the Maltese government accountable for addressing these extremely worrying failures, with a particular eye to ensuring concrete measures are implemented to actively protect journalists still working in Malta.”

For nearly two years Caruana Galizia’s family and their legal team, RSF and other international NGOs campaigned to secure the establishment of a public inquiry. Former Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s administration strongly opposed it, until reaching a deadline set by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The deadline was set in a resolution titled: ‘Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination and the rule of law in Malta and beyond: ensuring that the whole truth emerges.’

RSF editor-in-chief Pauline Adès-Mével gave testimony to the public inquiry, describing worrying trends in Malta in the months leading up to the assassination, and conveying RSF’s view that there were clear signs of the risks Caruana Galizia faced, and that her assassination could have been prevented. RSF also supported a joint written submission to the public inquiry, together with eight other NGOs.

Rebecca Vincent said that the work of the public inquiry could serve as a model for how to respond to cases in other country contexts, noting it was vital to draw lessons from the findings in order to protect other journalists in the future.

Ms Vincent added: “Although the public inquiry findings represent a crucial step towards justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia, it’s important to remember that it is a separate process from the criminal case. It remains extremely important to closely monitor the ongoing criminal proceedings and ensure that all those involved in every aspect of this heinous assassination are brought to full justice.”

Malta is ranked 81st out of 180 countries on RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index, having fallen 34 places since Caruana Galizia’s assassination in 2017.

* Read Coalition of International Press Freedom NGOs submission to the Public Inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia here.

* The inquiry report, in Maltese, is available here .

* Source: Reporters Without Borders