European press freedom associations express concern on journalist bribery attempt

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The alleged attempt to bribe a journalist made by the defence team of former Tumas Group CEO Yorgen Fenech, who stands accused of complicity in the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia – has been met by concern by a number of European press freedom associations coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response.

The associations – Article 19, the Association of European Journalists, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, the European Federation of Journalists, Free Press Unlimited, the International Press Institute, OBC Transeuropa and the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation –highlighted that the version of events presented by the defence team was also objectionable.

In a statement, the defence team had admitted that money had been offered to the Times of Malta journalist Ivan Martin by lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran, but claimed that this was because the journalist had offered to help them outside of his job with the newsroom. The associations, however, highlighted that such “envelope journalism” ran counter to media freedom and that even an unsuccessful attempt at bribery undermined journalistic integrity and demonstrated a profound misunderstanding of the media’s watchdog role in society.

The associations observed that Martin’s version of events constituted an attempt at bribery which needed to be investigated by the Maltese authorities, particularly in light of Caruana Curran’s role in such a high-profile case.

They also noted that the defence team had made uncorroborated and inconsistent allegations about Martin, flagging this as an apparent attempt to impugn his personal and professional integrity.

“As such, they in themselves constitute an attack on media freedom and we urge Caruana Curran and Mercieca to stop spreading baseless misinformation and instead cooperate fully with investigations into their conduct,” they maintained.