The government appears set to announce the appointment of a board to help implement the recommendations of the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry. You’d think this will be a good thing. You’re meant to think this will be a good thing. But that will be taking things out of context which is what the government wants you to do.
The inquiry report was published last July, that’s 6 months ago already. It provided a raft of recommendations, none of which have yet been implemented. So, it took the government 6 months to bring themselves to set up a committee. That’s it. That’s all they did in 6 months.
I remember Robert Abela fretting that the Daphne inquiry was taking too long to conclude. They heard dozens of witnesses. They researched, consulted, including with international experts, held hundreds of hours of public sessions and drew up a detailed report with substantive and researched recommendations.
In the past 6 months the government set up a committee.
And I bet that’s only because they were embarrassed by the fact that the habitually pathologically slothful Opposition came up with an omnibus bill to make the legal changes recommended by the inquiry.
Today, Edward Zammit Lewis, who introduces himself as the great reformer, said his side would support the Opposition’s legal proposals “if they made sense”. If, Mister Minister? If? It’s not the PN you are implicitly suggesting may have proposed something that does not make sense. You are making that suggestion about the inquiry board members.
You wait for it. Six months since the inquiry concluded and they still haven’t acknowledged one of the most significant conclusions of that report: that Malta has been infiltrated by the mafia and we need anti-mafia laws to fight it. My guess, informed by nothing but the government’s deafening silence on this subject, is that this is what Edward Zammit Lewis is qualifying with his if. They will say the mafia does not exist so an anti-mafia law would not make sense. When someone is silent about the mafia, expect them to deny it exists. That’s how they protect it. It’s a system. They call it omertà.
Why would they ever legislate on something that could break down the structure of silence and impunity that protected them for so long?
But the board being set up will be interested in other things. Daphne was killed because the mafia infiltrated and assured its impunity, yes. But Daphne was killed because she was a journalist. The shopping list set up by the inquiry to improve the lot of journalists in Malta was not very long and not very complex.
The following list of highlights is lifted from Jacob Borg’s summary when the report came out:
- The setting up of a committee of experts to examine the state of journalism in Malta.
- The introduction of a legal framework to protect journalists and ensure the profession is self-regulated.
- Ensure government advertising in the media is distributed fairly.
- A reform of the freedom of information act to limit the culture of confidentiality and secrecy under the pretext of privacy and commercial sensitivity.
- Amendments to constitutional provisions establishing the Broadcasting Authority, with the board noting that the public broadcaster failed in its duty to impartial reporting when it did not adequately report on serious allegations of corruption.
- A code of ethics for journalists should be established.
- An independent commissioner for journalism should be created to implement laws and regulations designed to protect the freedom of the media, the safety of journalists, and the right to information.
- A constitutional amendment to recognise the right of an individual to receive information from the state and public administration, and the obligation to provide such information.
- A constitutional amendment to recognise that journalism is one of the pillars of a democratic society and that the state must guarantee and protect it.
- The establishment of a specific police unit to identify threats to journalists.
- The police must give weight to a journalist’s investigative work, and promptly investigate any allegations.
I have nothing against a committee of experts advising the government on implementing these measures, but they seem to me to be quite straightforward. Why didn’t the government get them done in these 6 months? Why wasn’t this committee set up the day after the inquiry published its report so the work could start in earnest?
I’m sorry if I’m sounding destructive in my criticism right when they seem to be moving in the right direction. It’s because they aren’t.
Rumours that this implementation and advisory board includes Saviour Balzan persist. The Shift News revealed it first in this report. It was one of those journalistic discoveries which it breaks your heart to expose like being the one to find out that a mummy rat is nursing babies inside the wedding cake.
Coming up: what I think about the choice of Saviour Balzan for this job, if that is indeed what happens when the composition of the Board is announced.