The Council of Europe’s platform for the protection of journalists and media freedom raised an alert of a “state act having chilling affects on media freedom” after Cyprus issues an arrest warrant on Maria Efimova after a complaint from a former employer.

An alert on the Council of Europe’s platforms is raised when a partner organisation (Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of journalists, the European Federation of journalists, the Association of European journalists and Article 19) identifies a case as a possible breach of the fundamental rights protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Before publishing an alert, the partner organisation verifies if the case is of serious concern with regard to media freedom; is a threat or violation in one of the 47 member States; and is based on information that is reliable and based on facts.

The Cyprus arrest warrant against Maria Efimova has satisfied these requirements.

The following is the full text of the Council of Europe alert:

“On 16 January 2018, Cyprus issued a European arrest warrant against Maria Efimova, a Russian whistleblower, following a complaint filed by the Russian-owned Cypriot company IFD Fragrance Distribution against Efimova, who is accused of stealing from the company.

“Maria Efimova, former Pilatus Bank employee, had tipped off Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia that the wife of the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Michelle Muscat, was allegedly the owner of Egrant Inc., a Panamanian offshore company.

“Efimova, who lived in Cyprus four years ago before moving to Malta, says these new charges are part of a plot to discredit her and to extradite her to Malta, where she was placed on the wanted list, after failing to turn up for court sittings. Efimova left Malta in August 2017, fearing for her life and that of her family, after having given evidence to the prosecution on the allegations regarding the PM’s wife ownership of the Panama offshore company. The Prime Minister and his wife denied the allegations and called for a judicial inquiry.

“Efimova has now applied for political asylum in an unspecified European Union country and asked from the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion to recognise her as a whistleblower.

“The European Parliament, asked EU member states, including Malta, to protect Efimova and grant her asylum, after a delegation led by the Portuguese MEP, Ana Gomes visited Malta in late November 2017.”