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Commissioner calls on Maltese authorities to withdraw posthumous defamation lawsuits against the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Letter
Strasbourg 19/09/2019
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Commissioner calls on Maltese authorities to withdraw posthumous defamation lawsuits against the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Today, the Commissioner published a letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, in which she recommends withdrawing the pending posthumous suits against the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

“Some 30 civil defamation claims continue,” writes the Commissioner, stressing that pursuing these lawsuits puts unjustified psychological and financial pressure on the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia. This situation is perceived as an intimidation against the family and “raises questions regarding the Maltese authorities’ commitment to finding and bringing the masterminds of this horrendous crime to justice.”

The Commissioner stresses that since the burden of proof lies with the respondents , this may oblige the Caruana Galizia family to reveal information on her journalistic work and sources. “This is not only an excessive and very complex burden for the respondents but may also constitute an undue interference with the right to protection of journalistic sources,” writes the Commissioner, adding that Maltese legislation should permit the courts to take a more balanced approach and consider the reversal of the burden of proof.

Lastly, the Commissioner writes that the situation endured by the heirs of Daphne Caruana Galizia stands “as an ominous warning to all journalists in Malta. I believe that the current legal provisions which allow the passing of civil defamation cases to heirs put journalists and their families at risk and have a chilling effect on investigative journalism. The authorities should repeal these provisions.”