Watch the dividing line between maintaining public order and eating away at fundamental freedoms!

The current climate in Malta risks being pushed towards a scenario that disregards a series of fundamental freedoms. Over the past days we have witnessed Government behaviour that has progressively eaten away at those freedoms that are fundamental to the healthy functioning of a democratic society. We are therefore seriously concerned that, if continued unchecked, such behaviour will cross the dividing line between permissible Government interventions to maintain public law and order, and actions amounting to human rights violations.

We appreciate that in fulfilling its duty to protect all persons in Malta, the Government is empowered to take actions it deems necessary. We also fully acknowledge the challenges presented to the Government by large demonstrations of the kind that have been occurring on an almost daily basis outside key institutions: the Prime Minister’s office, Parliament House and the Law Courts.

Yet we feel it is necessary to remind the Government that demonstrations and public expressions of opinions, aligned or opposed to Government’s own views, are an integral part of functioning and strong democracies. That any action taken by the Government to curtail, limit or deprive anyone from exercising their fundamental human rights must occur within the very strict limits imposed by law. That the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly are solidly enshrined in Malta’s Constitution. That they are also present in internal human rights instruments creating binding legal obligations on Malta, such as the European Convention on Human rights, the European Unions’ Fundamental Right Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We therefore express full solidarity with members of media organisations who were locked in the Prime Minister’s Office by unidentified men. We strongly denounce the verbal and physical attacks on journalists by Government employees. We flag, as an act of direct provocation, the relentless shrinking of public demonstration space in Freedom Square where Parliament House is located. We unequivocally condemn as false and inflammatory public statements by Government officials that demonstrators are intent on causing bloodshed. We stress that statements made by Government officials, describing civil society organisations as political party tools, are unfounded and made with an intent to stir up hatred and further unrest.

We finally stress that the on-going peaceful demonstrations, in which we are actively and proudly participating, are a national call of justice and accountability. Until the nation and its institutions embark on a path of truth and justice, the people will insist on exercising their fundamental rights of free expression and free peaceful assembly.

We therefore urge Government to refrain from any act that could unduly interfere with the exercise of these rights. We alert the Government to the possibility that any acts or words of provocation on their part could result in serious consequences and civil unrest.



Maltese NGOs at the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review’s Pre-Session

On 12 October aditus foundation, Kunsill Nazzjonali ŻgħażagħThe Malta Independent on Sunday editor David Lindsay attended the UPR pre-session on Malta to give their feedback and recommendations on the state of human rights in Malta as they stand.

The UPR pre-sessions are attended by States’ missions to the United Nations, based in Geneva, with a view to gathering information in preparation for the upcoming review of a State’s human rights performance. Malta’s review is set for 14 November 2018…we’ll be following closely!

(Don’t know what the UPR is, or why we think it’s an important human rights process? Read our earlier blog post.)

So, who said what at this pre-session?

aditus foundation

Neil was present as Director of aditus foundation but also as Head of Secretariat of the umbrella organisation Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM).

He started his presentation by highlighting the significant progress made by Malta in several areas since the last UPR, such as the adoption of the Integration Policy (2017) as well as amendments made to the immigration detention policy.

Statelessness was an issue discussed in depth by aditus foundation, also in the shadow report presented to the UPR process. In this regard, Neil reiterated concerns expressed in the Statelessness Index, namely:

Neil further noted the challenges faced by refugees and migrants in accessing Europe safely and legally, emphasizing that safe and legal pathways need to be introduced. He also stressed the need for Malta and Italy to stop bickering on Twitter and to find a way of resolving their legal and political disagreements regarding rescue at sea of migrants.

aditus foundation pleaded that Ħal Far Tent Village urgently needs to be replaced with housing that is community-based and equipped with basic material supplies. In relation to immigration detention, Neil noted that some instances of deprivation of liberty need to be aligned with international human rights standards.

Finally, on the migration theme, Neil urged Malta to remove the arbitrary prohibition of civil marriages for undocumented migrants.

Neil then spoke on the rule of law, mentioning examples of institutionalised nepotism, kickbacks and other forms of corruption. Neil finally stressed the importance of establishing a public inquiry looking into the brutal assassination of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

PEN Representative David Lindsay

David Lindsay, Editor of The Malta Independent on Sunday, spoke on behalf of Pen International, Reporters without Borders, IPI (International Press Institute), The Committee for the Protection of Journalists, The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, and Article 19.

He stated that during the last UPR session, no recommendations were made on freedom of speech, yet Malta’s situation degenerated enormously. He underlined how Daphne Caruana Galizia’s brutal assassination on 16 October 2017 has left trailing behind it a climate of fear.

David reminded his listeners that a makeshift memorial set up in her memory has been cleared over 20 times by government officials in the thick of the night.

David reiterated Neil’s recommendation by calling for an international public inquiry that would establish whether her death could or should have been prevented.

David said that PEN welcomed the decriminalisation of defamation under the new Media and Defamation Act adopted in 2018, yet also mentioned serious concerns in relation to this new law, particularly that the burden of proof remains with the defendant, including in cases initiated by senior members of the government.

In addition, libel suits may be passed to heirs. To highlight this, David mentioned how Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family inherited a total of 33 civil libel suits, all instituted by senior public officials against Daphne herself.

Lindsay lamented that 2017 was the year Malta was introduced to Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), as a way to censor and silence journalists and media houses by slapping them with exasperatingly high-cost legal fees. David expressed the fear that these methods are aimed at preventing the media from practicing its right to inform the public about matters of general interest.

David urged the UPR to recommend the prohibition of recognition of foreign defamation judgments, in order to protect Maltese journalists from SLAPP and libel tourism.

He concluded by stressing the importance of having a public inquiry looking into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

Kunsill Nazzjonali Żgħażagħ

The General Secretary of Kunsill Nazzjonali Żgħażagħ, Sean Ellul, tabled the KZN’s UPR recommendations, focusing mainly on sexual and mental health issues. Sean noted that, although Malta does offer free STD and STI  testing, it is quite hard to access these due to a long waiting list of up to several months.

This means that a good part of the population remains untested: over 25% of individuals suffering from HIV are unaware they are HIV positive.

KNZ recommends that a standardised, holistic national policy on sex education is established, that incorporates both formal and non-formal education. Further investment in quality sexual health clinics and services is also needed. Self-testing and the distribution/educational use of contraceptives among youths need to be made easier and simpler.

With regard to mental health, Sean highlighted the situation in Mount Carmel Hospital by referring specifically to the young man who was discovered dead after he had fled the hospital. Sean underlined the need to overhaul this institution, also referring to the need for further public education and awareness-raising.

KNZ commented on the Maltese legal and judicial system, where a survey carried out just after Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination showed that 53% of Maltese citizens lacked trust in the system. In line with aditus’ own earlier recommendation, KNZ recommended the establishment of an independent National Human Rights Institution in conformity with the Paris Principles.


This post is part of a series of posts on the Universal Period Review process. Malta’s review, where the country’s human rights situation will be assessed by other States, is set for 14 November 2018.

Follow our News and Updates to be kept updated on this important United Nations procedure. 


Appeal to establish a public inquiry into the assassination of Ms. Daphne Caruana Galizia


Dear Prime Minister Joseph Muscat,

I write to you on behalf of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and 22 organisations (listed below) representing thousands of journalists and human rights activists concerning Malta’s response to the assassination of journalist Ms Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Following her murder on 16 October 2017, the Maltese authorities initiated criminal proceedings against the men who allegedly detonated the bomb that killed Ms Caruana Galizia and a parallel magisterial inquiry into whether others should be charged with criminal offences for commissioning the alleged assassins. Both the criminal proceedings and magisterial inquiry focus solely on criminal culpability.

Neither process is investigating the wider and even more serious question as to whether the Maltese state is responsible for the circumstances that led to Ms Caruana Galizia’s death.

Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires Malta – as a Member State of the Council of Europe – to comply with its protective obligation by examining (a) whether Malta knew, or ought to have known, of a real and immediate risk to Ms Caruana Galizia’s life; (b) the adequacy of any steps taken by Malta to guard against that risk; and (c) any steps that Malta needs to take to prevent future deaths of journalists and/or anti-corruption campaigners.

On 9 August 2018, a team of international lawyers from Doughty Street Chambers and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors in London issued a legal opinion finding that Malta has failed to institute any inquiry into whether the Maltese state bears any responsibility for the loss of Ms Caruana Galizia’s life. Following the legal opinion, the family has submitted the following request to your government:

To establish a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act that is completely independent of the Maltese police, Government and politicians, and that is conducted by a panel of respected international judges, retired judges and/or suitably qualified individuals with no political or government links.

We fully support the request and urge you to reconsider your position and to respond immediately and positively to the request of the family of Ms Caruana Galizia.

Protecting the lives and voices of journalists in Malta and across Europe depends upon this public inquiry. There is nothing to fear from this inquiry but the truth.

Seeking justice for Ms Caruana Galizia and protection for those who continue her legacy remains our top priority.

We would appreciate your written response to our appeal.

Flutura Kusari, Legal Advisor, The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.


List of Organisations

Access Info

Active Watch

aditus foundation

Article 21

Blueprint for Free Speech

Committee to Protect Journalists

European Federation of Journalists

Global Editors Network

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

IFEX (the global network of over 100 freedom of expression organizations)

Index on Censorship

Integra Foundation

International Press Institute

OBC Transeuropa/ Centro per la Cooperazione Internazionale

Ossigeno per l’Informazione

PEN International

PEN America

Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM)

Press Emblem Campaign

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

South East Europe Media Organisation

Transparency International

The Critical Institute

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)


The Minister needs to confirm that Malta is still a safe and functioning democracy. NGO Statement on recent Ministerial actions on the ‘Daphne Memorial’

The actions of the Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government in relation to the ‘Daphne Memorial’ in Valletta are utterly shameful and reprehensible. They represent an unequivocal repression of free and peaceful political and personal expression. These are fundamental human rights boldly enshrined in Malta’s Constitution and part of the human rights regime Malta so proudly subscribes to.

The Government’s, or the Minister’s, opinions of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia should play absolutely no part in its relationship with a group of people who, on a regular basis, choose to gather in Valletta to express political opinions or to mourn Daphne Caruana Galizia.

International and national human rights law protect the rights of all people in Malta to assemble, and to express their opinions. These are core pillars of a functioning democracy, since they ensure the safety of people whose personal, political, religious or other views – and their public expression – jar with those of the majority, and of the government. Limitations on these rights are only permitted where strictly necessary and for reasons linked to the protection of national security, public safety or the rights of others.

The Ministry’s justification for its actions – to safeguard national monuments – is therefore unacceptable and a clear populist attempt at ignoring basic legal standards, especially since no damage to the Great Siege Monument was ever alleged or demonstrated. Furthermore, the Ministry may comfortably rely on other less intrusive laws for the protection of our national heritage, without acting in such a repressive and childish manner.

We therefore urge the Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government to immediately refrain from these undemocratic tactics and to simply allow the public and peaceful demonstration of opinions and views that he might not be comfortable with.

This is not asking for too much, just for the peace of mind that we still live in a safe and functioning democracy,

Dr. Neil Falzon (aditus foundation Director).