Prime Minister willing to drop libel suits against Daphne Caruana Galizia provided her family accept the findings of the Egrant Inquiry
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that the government could not intervene to stop civil cases instituted by private citizens or third parties against journalists who have since passed away and whose cases have been inherited by their relatives.
The Prime Minister said this in a letter sent to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, in response to a letter wherein she asked the Government to withdraw the libel cases against journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Mijatović said that these libel lawsuits were cause for concern both for Caruana Galizia family’s as well as press freedom and the rule of law in the country.
In response, the Prime Minister said that the Government had been advised not to drop any civil cases in the event of the accused dying, because such would raise serious doubts about the right to a fair trial under the European Convention of Human-Right. The Prime Minister recalled how Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family had agreed to take over her cases. Dr Muscat asked the Commissioner to indicate whether there was a common position on this matter at European level.
The Prime Minister also said that this issue was never raised during consultations which took place a year ago on the law of defamation – the MADA. He reiterated that the discussions took place at a different level including the OSCE, and eventually the new law eliminated criminal libel entirely affording greater protection to journalists.
Finally, the Prime Minister recalled how, on a personal level, he had indicated that he would be willing to withdraw the libel lawsuits against Daphne Caruana Galizia if her family was willing to make a statement to the effect that it accepted the findings of the Egrant inquiry.