Journalists still face isolation and attacks, Daphne inquiry told

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The public inquiry looking into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia resumed on Wednesday morning with a brief sitting, in which the testimony of journalist Victor Paul Borg was heard.

Borg’s testimony was cut short after some 30 minutes, as his request for it to continue behind closed doors was turned down by the board of inquiry. Instead, the inquiry asked him to submit an affidavit, promising confidentiality.

The journalist had worked extensively in Malta and overseas, but said that he was compelled to resume investigative journalism in Malta after Caruana Galizia was killed.

Citing his own experiences, he observed that journalists seeking to expose wrongdoing were often left alone, as the authorities would fail to follow things up. Consequently, he argued, eliminating a journalist was an easy way to put an end to investigations.

The inquiry resumes on Friday with the testimony of Kurt Farrugia, who had been spokesman to former PM Joseph Muscat before he was made CEO of Malta Enterprise.

10:14 Today's sitting ends here, and so does our live blog. Thank you for following us.
John Paul Cordina
10:11 Kurt Farrugia – a former spokesman for PM Joseph Muscat who was made CEO of Malta Enterprise – will be testifying on Friday.

Nationalist Party MEP David Casa is scheduled to do so on 22 July.
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10:10 The board is also informed that a journalist working with Reporters Without Borders wished to testify: she will be doing so on 24 July.
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10:08 The inquiry is set to continue on Friday morning, starting at 9:30am.

Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo is scheduled to testify, but the inquiry is informed that he will not be able to do so then.
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10:07 Borg is asked to submit an affidavit.

He states that he has a number of recommendations to make concerning the protection of journalists.

His testimony ends here.
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10:05 Lofaro asks whether he knew Daphne and whether he was aware of any threats she received. He states that he had sent her a few articles between 2012 and 2013.

Lofaro then asks whether he would bring up issues related to Daphne's own security concerns and whether she ever complained to him about them. Borg says that she never did, though she had complained about the behaviour of some politicians.
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10:04 The inquiry board appears unconvinced by this request, however. As a solution, it asks Borg to submit the testimony he wished to make in writing, emphasising that this would remain confidential.
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10:03 Borg now asks to continue his testimony behind closed doors.

Asked why he wished to do so, he states that he wishes to speak on security matters which he did not wish to discuss publicly.
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10:02 Borg argues that he was seeing parallels between what had happened to Daphne in the past and what he was going through in the present.

He states that his work is ignored by local media, while partisan media singled him out for attacks.
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10:01 Retired judge Michael Mallia asks Borg whether he had any concrete facts to present to the Court.
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09:59 Borg emphasises that when a journalist is left alone, that it is easy to eliminate just one person.

He argues that if the inquiry is seeking to determine what the state should do to protect journalists, one must consider the difficulties that they face.
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09:58 Borg was pointing out that the life of a journalist was a difficult one as one risked being isolated and losing access, whilst receiving inadequate pay.
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09:57 The inquiry board, however, questions the relevance of the matters Borg brings up on a number of matters, including as Borg is about to mention how journalists are underpaid.
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09:56 Borg brings up another case where a spokesman for the Prime Minister asked him to refrain from publishing an article for a few days.

The spokesman threatened to ignore any questions Borg would make in the future should the article be published.
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09:52 Borg continues, explaining that whenever journalists' revelations are not followed up by proper investigations, the journalist is left alone to look into wrongdoing.

Consequently, he adds, all one needs to do to put an end to investigations is to stop or eliminate the journalist.
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09:52 The board reminds Borg that it was not in its remit to look into the functioning of the Planning Authority.
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09:47 Borg states that he will limit his testimony to investigations that he has concluded, starting with his research into a property. He had found that false declarations had been made by the original owner.

As a journalist, he looked into the matter, but the Planning Authority's response was that it never received any assertion proving his claim.
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09:45 Borg starts by providing some background, stating that he started working as a journalist at the age of 18. He has worked in Malta, but has also spent 17 years working overseas, in the UK, Australia, Thailand and China. He said that he worked as a freelancer and that his work has been published across the world.

He returned to Malta in 2015, and resumed journalistic work in Malta two years later. He states that one of the reasons he has resumed carrying out investigative journalism was Daphne's assassination.
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09:44 Victor Paul Borg starts testifying.
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09:43 Peter Caruana Galizia apologises for the absence of the family's lawyers Therese Comodini Cachia and Jason Azzopardi.
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09:43 An affidavit has been submitted on behalf of Minister Owen Bonnici, who maintained that he received no documents on Nexia BT when he was Justice Minister.
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09:41 One of today's witnesses – Gozitan journalist Victor Paul Borg – enters the hall. The inquiry board enters a few moments later.
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09:40 The inquiry also seeks to determine whether effective legal provisions and other practical means are in place to avoid the development of a state of impunity in Malta.
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09:38 The public inquiry was set up with the aim of determining whether the state has, in any way, facilitated the assassination or failed to prevent it.
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09:37 Daphne's husband Peter Caruana Galizia and her sister Corinne Vella are following proceedings.
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09:24 Good morning and welcome to our live blog. Today's hearing is expected to begin at 9:30am.

Proceedings are taking place at Hall 20 in the Law Courts, where the Constitutional Court holds its sittings.
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Last week’s sitting saw the testimony of Assistant Commissioner Ian Abdilla, the former head of the Economic Crimes Unit. Abdilla was only recently removed from the post by newly-appointed commissioner Angelo Gafà, with Alexandra Mamo appointed in his stead.

The inquiry board is led by retired judge Michael Mallia, assisted by retired Chief Justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro.