European Federation of Journalists says Council of Europe, European Commission and European Parliament to be formally notified of Minister’s ‘asset freeze’ action against journalist/ “We have never seen anything of this kind in Europe”

Published: February 14, 2017 at 5:38pm

The interview below is translated from the Maltese.


In an exclusive interview with Robert Cremona for Il-Mument, the Secretary-General of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) Ricardo Gutierrez, said that Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has to answer for the actions of his deputy leader who ordered the freezing of assets belonging to the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

How did you react when, last Wednesday, Minister Chris Cardona froze journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assets? What do you think of this action by Muscat’s deputy leader?

In my opinion, this action is disproportionate. We have never seen anything like this. As the European Federation of Journalists, for the last two years we have followed cases of limitations on journalists’ freedom of expression. We are doing this through a dedicated platform created by the Council of Europe for the protection and safety of journalists.
As long as this structure has existed, we have never reported a case like this. Apart from that, this is the first case we have had from Malta. In practice, this means that the Maltese government will have to answer for and explain Minister Cardona’s action.

You have written formally to the Council of Europe platform. What does this mean, exactly?

Simple. The Secretary-General of the Council of Europe will contact Malta’s representative in the Council and will ask the country to explain why this measure was taken against the journalist. Undoubtedly there will be international pressure on Malta, with hard questions asking for justification for Minister Cardona’s action. As I explained, we have never seen a scenario of this kind in Europe where a minister orders the freezing of a journalist’s assets. Let me make this clear. We are in favour of journalists’ reporting responsibly. However, this manouevre by a minister is disproportionate. I repeat. We have never seen anything of this kind in Europe.

But when you say that, which countries are you referring to?

Yes, we are referring to the 47 countries that form the Council of Europe, not just the members of the European Union.

Meaning you have never had a case like this one?

On the platform, all 47 members of the Council of Europe are scrutinised. These even include Russia, Azerbaijian, and Turkey. Yes, we have never seen a decision about a journalist like this case in Malta. Sincerely, this is very strange. And I cannot understand why the minister has done this. On our part, the European Federation of Journalists is backing Daphne Caruana Galizia. I should also add that we are also preparing official letters to be sent to the European Commission and to the European Parliament. We are going to strongly support our colleague in Malta.

In your opinion, do Minister Cardona’s actions violate fundamental rights?

It is a violation of the standards that we are accustomed to in Europe. And it is against the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly Article 10 which deals with freedom of expression. We unreservedly condemn this kind of interference in the work journalists do.

When you say that government should answer, are you expecting an explanation from the minister? An explanation from the prime minister?

Both should answer. The official correspondence will be sent to the Maltese state. Obviously, there is no obligation to answer. Since 2015 we have reported 254 cases of violation of journalists’ rights. We have received around 100 responses. If you do not respond or refuse to provide clarification about this case, that would indicate that you are in the wrong. It is a violation of the standards that we are accustomed to in Europe. And it is against the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly Article 10 which deals with freedom of expression. We unreservedly condemn this kind of interference in the work journalists do.

  • NC

    Best in Europe!

  • Michael Seychell

    I hope and pray that the European Federation ofJournalists will continue to press this corrupt government headed by Joe Muscat to stop bullying Ms Daphne and other journalists.

    • J. Jones

      I hope and pray that the EU entities do something about this issue, not sit on the fence like they did with the Panama issue.

  • Francis Saliba MD

    When it comes to denial of democratic freedoms this Muscat government is a despicable trend setter on a European scale and it makes ashamed to be identified as Maltese. The great pity is that the ignominy spreads widely to haunt us all not just those who voted for it.

  • verita

    Madam, now you have the support even of all the European countries.

  • Cyrill Sammut (Sliema)

    This, this situation, the way things are happening, evolving, is not politics anymore.

    • Tabatha_White

      It hasn’t been for a while, especially when “they aim below the belt”

  • may borg

    Meanwhile, Bedingfield will soon be on the dole.

    “”We don’t want freedom of speech to end up in the publishing of poison and hatred,” he added.”

    Please note that the bill “is the results of months, if not years of work by the government” always according to Noddy. Wasn’t Cardona aware of all this hard work?

  • Paul Vella

    As they say..’every cloud has a silver lining’, let us hope this reaches all corners of Europe and the civilised world.

  • Manuel Camilleri

    That snake in the grass, Saviour Balzan, blocked me on Twitter. He couldn’t stand my tweets, exposing him for what he truly is. He criticises Dr. Busuttil about his proposed motion, but snake is not able to face some criticism himself.

    Poisonous twat.

  • Mike Wagstaff

    Not with Juncker in the chair. The U.K. was right to lobby against his appointment.