Statement by Repubblika:

Repubblika expresses its concern at yesterday’s ruling by the Court of Appeal presided by Judge Giovanni Grixti quashing the earlier decision of Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit to order an inquiry into allegations of criminal responsibility by Edward Scicluna, Chris Cardona and Konrad Mizzi in the sale of three public hospitals to VGH.

The judge found that the investigations by journalists publishing in newspapers or online are not a suitable basis for starting an inquiry. We respectfully disagree.

In democracies the work of journalists is an indispensable component of the functioning of the rule of law. Investigative journalism publishes what institutions fail to do and provoke therefore those same institutions to make up for their failure and act.

The courts, in turn, are expected to provide checks and balances to a corrupt executive, rather than sanction its corruption. Yesterday’s judgement is an example for all institutions  to ignore what is published in the media and assume that whatever crimes public figures are found to have committed by journalistic investigations should be presumed to be untrue.

This decision does not in any way effect our determination to fight corruption and to insist that our institutions do their job in fighting corruption as well.

We have therefore instructed our lawyer in this case, Dr Jason Azzopardi, to submit a fresh request for an in genere inquiry into the shocking VGH scandal. Our application has been updated with more information made available since our first submission in this case several months ago.

Furthermore, we are perplexed by yesterday’s ruling that accuses Repubblika both of providing too much information and detail in our submission and that the information we supplied was too sparse to justify the opening of an inquiry.

We disagree that opening an inquiry is in itself a contradiction to the presumption of innocence and we do not understand its invocation in this case. Presumption of innocence is not put at risk by the opening of an inquiry.

There is no such thing as a right to not being investigated but that is exactly what yesterday’s decree and a similar decision earlier this year quashing an order for an inquiry into the Panama Papers has established.

We hope that the judiciary does not share the view expressed in yesterday’s judgement that the work of journalists should be at best ignored by the state’s institutions, at worst suppressed.

To link the presumption of innocence to the alleged absence of “facts” other than “opinions of bloggers and newspapers” amounts to a prevarication of the facts as stated in Repubblika’s application. The Police can commence an investigation even on an anonymous tip-off. But this judgement requires that a judicial investigation must have boiler proof evidence cast in steel before the magistrate starts looking into it. That is, no doubt, a convenience for corrupt ministers but an injustice for citizens of this country.

We note with deep regret but sincere understanding remarks expressed publicly by several journalists working for several media organisations receiving with concern yesterday’s decision. We fear that yesterday’s ruling will enhance the tragic impression many journalists have that the state’s institutions have organised themselves to immunise each other from whatever wrongdoing that may be revealed about them through the work of journalists.

We also note that Ministers Scicluna, Cardona and Mizzi have, in public remarks yesterday, taken the cue from remarks by Judge Grixti in his decision and lashed out at Repubblika, and its lawyer in this case Dr Jason Azzopardi, to represent us in a way that targets us for vilification by their supporters. This behaviour is despicable but ineffective. We therefore inform the Ministers that we will continue to insist, indefatigably, that they are held to account.

Finally, we urge the public not to be complacent in the face of institutions that are paid to serve it, colluding to ensure that ministers are above the law. It is the public’s money that these ministers are alleged to have squandered in a corrupt deal.

The authorities must be made to understand that the dismantling of our democracy is not occurring with the acquiescence of the public.

We therefore urge people to join us in our Demonstration for Truth and Justice in Valletta on 16 October 2019 at 7pm.