A sad anniversary calls for renewed efforts to protect journalists in Europe. On 16 October 2017 Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has been murdered by a car bomb in the town of Bidnija, near her family home. Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, was known for her investigative journalism and her blog 'Running Commentary', which was one of the most widely read websites in Malta. In 2016, she was named by Politico as one of the “28 people who are shaping, shaking and stirring Europe”, after being the first to break news of Maltese politicians’ involvement in the Panama Papers scandal. The journalist had been sued many times for her blog posts in which she revealed several alleged corruption scandals involving Maltese politicians. In February 2017, her bank accounts were frozen and libel suits were filed against her by Maltese Economy Minister and his consultant, following a report revealing that both men visited a brothel during an official trip in Germany. According to media report, Daphne Caruana Galizia had filed a police report 15 days before her death saying she was being threatened.
Since the violent death of the prominent Maltese journalist, the Council of Europe Platform for the Safety of Journalists has been monitoring the state response in addressing this crime. The Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 2293 "Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination and the rule of law in Malta and beyond: ensuring that the whole truth emerges" explicitly called Maltese authorities to bring perpetrators to justice and ensure similar does not happen again. In a letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela addressed on 23 September 2022, Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović reiterated the utmost importance of stepping up investigative efforts to identify and bring to justice all those responsible for Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination, and stressed that this was also necessary to uphold the rule of law and Malta’s human rights obligations with respect to freedom of expression.
The Council of Europe study A Mission to Inform – Journalists at risk speak out was the last interview Daphne ever gave, providing illustration of the threats, intimidation and attacks endured in the exercise of her profession. The whole interview is available under the title Daphne Caruana Galizia Speaks Out.
To address the growing threat to journalism in Europe, the Council of Europe has built a solid body of policies and practices to protect journalists. Most recently, in spring 2022, a Committee of Experts on Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (MSI-SLP) has started work on a new policy recommendation aiming at providing guidance to the member States on measures to be adopted to prevent and combat Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), i.e. the frivolous, vexatious, or malicious use of the law and legal process to silence public watchdogs reporting on matters of public interest. On 20 October a major European anti-SLAPP conference will be held in Strasbourg. The forum will examine European and national political and other initiatives against SLAPPs, bring to light its impact on journalism and discuss available financial and practical support for journalists targeted by SLAPPs.