EPRS Book Talk – Protection of Journalists in the European Union

by | Jan 26, 2024

(January 23, 2024 – European Parliament)

Speakers:

  • Etienne BASSOT, Director of the Members’ Research Service, European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS)
  • Roberta METSOLA, President of the European Parliament
  • Věra JOUROVÁ, Vice-President for Values and Transparency of the European Commission
  • Paul CARUANA GALIZIA, Journalist at Tortoise Media, Author of ‘A Death in Malta, An assassination and a family’s quest for justice’
  • Ramona STRUGARIU, Member of the European Parliament
  • Assita KANKO, Member of the European Parliament

Moderator:

  • Juliette GARSIDE, Journalist at the Guardian

Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament provided the introductory remarks, talking about the “devastatingly well written” book ‘A Death in Malta, An assassination and a family’s quest for justice’ by Paul Caruana Galizia. The book is more about the life than the death of Paul’s mother, Maltese Investigative Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, murdered in 2017. The world knew her as a journalist, but few knew her as a woman, a sister and a mother. Metsola herself had conversations with Daphne about politics, food, and of course, her sons, Matthew, Andrew and Paul. She remembers her as a “force of nature” who shaped her career and outlook too. Metsola explained how Daphne, often described as fearless, did fear, but kept going nonetheless, showing her real character and sense of purpose.

Metsola brought up the hate, violence and threat Daphne had to face, “the systemic, state-led intimidation” she had to go through – and that, in contrast, how at ease Daphne felt in London where she didn’t experience such things. She went against grain in Malta, she was brave and defined, she exposed corrupt people. According to Metsola, what they did to silence her was “utterly outrageous in a democratic society, in an EU member state”. Metsola claims that the 16th of October 2017, the day Daphne was murdered will remain with her forever, because it not only changed her country forever, but shook the EU too. That is the reason why they started the campaigning for an EU anti-SLAPP law – in other words Daphne’s law.

Metsola highlighted that the European Parliament “continues to stand on the side of truth seekers and justice”. In honour of the Maltese Investigative Journalist, the EP founded the Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism in 2020, and the EU has been working on new rules which are meant to guarantee that journalists can do their work free from fear, harassment, violence, murder. Metsola recalled the situation of journalists in Gaza and stated that despite the recent anti-SLAPP law and the European Media Freedom Act, the EU’s voice must be louder. “I miss her, I miss her writing, I miss her humour” – Metsola admitted, stating that she only takes comfort in the fact that Daphne’s voice continues to live on.

Vera Jourova, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency expressed that there must be courage in the DNA of the Galizia family. She declared that it was one her strongest moments when she met Daphne, and suddenly she heard herself promising: “We will do more.” Jourova said that there’s a never ending pull to do more as politicians and talked about the desire to give access to justice to everyone. She underlined the importance of the anti-SLAPP law and the EMFA, but she would also like to deal with domestic cases and increase the security and safety of journalists. “We need them to do their job to protect democracy” – Jourova emphasized. She reminisced about the situation of journalists not only in Gaza, but in Ukraine too. Jourova wishes to further improve the situation by setting higher standards in the EU and keep Daphne’s name in the public attention.

Paul Caruana Galizia, author of the book and Journalist at Tortoise Media felt “really touched” about how many people came to the event. He remembered how he came to the EP after her mother’s death with his brother not knowing exactly what to say and who will listen to them. At that time, seeing the rule of law crisis, he asked: “If you can’t get a handle on the EU’s smallest country, then what hope do you have of managing Hungary or Poland?” It was to provoke a reaction, and it actually did. Paul admitted that he decided to write the book, because he felt that her mother’s murder was becoming bigger than her life.

He talked about the populist government taking over in Malta in 2013, the institutions being compromised and him having the feeling that “justice had to come from the outside”. The international pressure did induce some progress in his country, but the astonishing truth is, not a single prosecution has happened based on her mother’s investigative works, and not a single recommendation concerning her issue has been implemented by Malta. He finished by saying that he hopes that people will meet her mother through the book “as the person she really was, so full of life, so full of her own convictions, a wonderful person”.

Roberta Metsola still remembers being on the Terrorism Committee during Daphne’s murder, addressing the irony of her legislating something from far away, not knowing what happened in her country. She wanted to make sure that Daphne’s case is going to be taken by the EP. A few months later, Slovakian Journalist, Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were murdered too. The question arose: “How can we fix this issue from a legislative point of view?”

Vera Jourova noted that only the capable journalists like Daphne and Jan are murdered. She highlighted four important things their cases pushed the EU to do: paying more attention to the situation of the media in the Member States in the framework of the annual rule of law report, making the European Prosecutor’s Office work, and concluding the anti-money laundering legislation and the anti-corruption package – the last one still being in process.

When Roberta Metsola and Vera Jourova had to leave because of their duties, Assita Kanko, MEP of ECR and Ramona Strugariu, MEP of Renew, members of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) joined the conversation. Kanko emphasized that reading the book, you can see the perspective of Paul showing love for her mother, love for freedom. She talked about the similarities between Daphne and Burkinabé Investigative Journalist Norbert Zongo, editor of the newspaper L’indépendent and Kanko’s late mentor. Zongo was also working on exposing corruption until his murder – which was presented as an accident. Kanko thinks, when not getting justice, you have to continue to fight for what the people you believed in were fighting for, “so that they didn’t die for nothing”.

Ramona hasn’t met Daphne, but claims that there’s a striking similarity between the Maltese Journalist and her sons. The look in their eyes that tells everybody they are unstoppable. “You can kill a journalist, but you can never ever kill their story” – she stated. Politicians enjoy immunity, but journalists have nothing. She reminisced about the Whistleblower Directive, where there was a discussion about including journalists, to which some actually asked why and said: “It’s their job (…) if they die, they die (…) it’s their problem.” She thinks we have to create a practice to send the message that it is not okay to harass and destroy journalists. She would not call the EMFA a great victory, because it’s the recognition journalists deserve for a work which is fundamental for defending democracy and the rule of law.

The book is available in bookstores and online.


The event online:
https://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/events/details/eprs-book-talk-protection-of-journalists/20240110EOT08121

You can watch the Book Talk here:

C4EPIECE 2024/02 is out!

The 2024/02 edition of our newsletter titled C4EPIECE is published today. The focus of the current edition is espionage against the EU, but we also bring You other important subjects from member states and the global theater as well as reports of events taking place...

Navigating a New Era for Great Power Politics

(14 February, 2024 - Martens Centre) DISCUSSANTS Christina Chen, Research Fellow, Institute for National Defence and Security Research, Taiwan Theresa Fallon, Founder and Director, Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies, BelgiumShairee Malhotra, Associate Fellow,...