Malta police chief quits amid criticism over murdered journalist case(I posted an article about it here)
Malta's police chief has resigned following criticism of his handling of the 2017 murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. New Prime Minister Robert Abela has vowed to improve the rule of law in Malta.
Malta's police chief resigned on Friday following ongoing criticism of his handling of the 2017 murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a journalist who investigated corruption.
The country's new prime minister, Robert Abela, announced Lawrence Cutajar's resignation on Friday, four days after taking office with a pledge to improve the rule of law on the island nation.
"In his resignation letter, Mr Cutajar wrote that the appointment of a new prime minister demanded change so that necessary reforms to the [police] force could start taking place," Abela said in a press conference.
Caruana Galizia's son Paul tweeted that he had called for the resignation two years ago.
"How they mocked us when, a day after my mother was assassinated, we called for the resignations of the prime minister, police commissioner, and attorney general, and the investigation of Keith Schembri," he wrote.
"Watch them fall," he added.
Activist group Occupy Justice said the resignation was "long overdue."
Abela has shaken the political landscape in his few days in office, in an attempt to distance himself from the scandals attached to his predecessor.
With a Cabinet reshuffle earlier this week, he hoped to give Malta's ruling Labour party a new lease of life. However, the attorney general, Peter Grech, has remained in his role despite widespread calls for his resignation.
What does Cutajar's resignation mean?
Ex-police chief Cutajar received criticism from international bodies for his reluctance to investigate allegations of financial crime relating to the top aide of former Prime Minister Muscat.
In January 2018, a delegation of EU lawmakers noted a "lack of police action, despite the very serious evidence of maladministration involving even members of the Maltese government."
Activists hope that Cutajar's resignation will lead to a more open investigation into Caruana Galizia's murder and better police scrutiny of senior figures.
Abela will appoint the new police commissioner next week. The prime minister's role has been criticized as too powerful, as they directly appoint police chiefs and judges.
What has happened since the murder of Caruana Galizia?
Abela's predecessor, Muscat, stepped down amid criticism of his handling of the murder of Caruana Galizia.
Muscat was embroiled in controversy after a senior aide, Keith Schembri, was implicated in the murder following the arrest of wealthy businessman Yorgen Fenech.
Fenech was charged in November as an accomplice to murder. Three other men are on trial for allegedly detonating the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia in October 2017.
Read more: Opinion: Malta is a wake-up call
Caruana Galizia's sons, along with a number of activist groups, have long fought for justice for their mother, accusing senior government figures of being complicit in her murder or failing to hold up the rule of law.
Caruana Galizia, who was killed in a car bomb attack, fought to expose and denounce corruption linked to Malta's elite.
Malta gets new PM after Muscat departs over Daphne Caruana Galizia murder
Robert Abela elected as Labour leader after PM Joseph Muscat resigned amid controversy surrounding investigation of journalist’s death
Outsider Robert Abela is set to become Malta’s new prime minister after the downfall of previous leader Joseph Muscat over the investigation into the murder of an investigative journalist.
Abela, who is seen as representing continuity, was elected leader of the Labour party on Sunday, meaning he automatically takes the role of prime minister.
In the election run-up Abela did not criticise Muscat, who had announced in December he would quit following widespread anger over his perceived efforts to protect friends and allies from a probe into the 2017 car bombing murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Muscat, 45, was set to resign on Sunday.
Prior to the election result activist groups cast doubt on whether his successor would bring about real change in the country which they say has been taken over by “criminals”.
Dubbed the “one woman WikiLeaks”, Caruana Galizia exposed corruption at the highest levels. She was killed by a car bomb on 16 October 2017 in an attack that made world headlines.
Less than an hour before her death she wrote on her blog: “There are crooks everywhere you look. The situation is desperate.”
It was expected that some 17,500 Labour voters would vote for the first mid-term prime minister in the party’s history.
Two candidates were vying to take over as Labour leader and prime minister: the deputy prime minister and health minister, Chris Fearne, a 56-year old surgeon, and 42-year-old lawyer Abela.
Fearne had the backing of most cabinet members but Abela had been closing the gap in the polls in the final week of the campaign, the Times of Malta said.
Neither referred to the Galizia killing in the run-up to the election. Both have insisted they represent continuity, highlighting their determination to keep the economy on its stellar trajectory.
“We have the reputation [in Malta] of being pirates. The reason is that a group of criminals have taken over our government,” Manuel Delia, a member of the activist group Repubblika, told AFP. “We need change.”
Martina Darmanin, a 24-year old academic, said she was fed up with hearing that she was from a “tax haven country”.
“As a member of the EU we want and we deserve better than this: good governance, rule of law,” she said.
Repubblika plans to deliver a manifesto to the new prime minister calling for a clean-up of politics and the economy as well as a revamp of the constitution to guarantee a genuine separation of powers.
In an emotional farewell address on Friday, Muscat said he was “sorry” about the killing, the investigation into which he has been accused of hampering.
“I paid the highest price for this case to be solved under my watch,” he said.
The opposition Nationalist party slammed Muscat’s “surreal” speech, pointing out that it was Caruana Galizia who had paid that price.
Muscat’s fall from power followed daily protests led by supporters of the Caruana Galizia family, who accuse him, among other things, of shielding his chief of staff and childhood friend Keith Schembri, who has been implicated in the murder.
The journalist’s family had called for Muscat to step down immediately but support from his party and his own popularity – linked to Malta’s booming economy – bought him time until the party election.
Three men are on trial for allegedly detonating the bomb that killed Caruana Galizia, while a fourth – a powerful businessman called Yorgen Fenech – was charged as an accomplice after being detained as he tried to leave the country on his yacht.
Fenech’s arrest in November sparked the resignation of the tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, who formerly served as energy minister, and Schembri.
The murder and probe, Malta Today wrote on Saturday, “cast an indelible stain on Muscat and his administration”.
A different article that shows more of how the EU views the political situation in Malta is here
Man Admits To Murdering Investigative Journalist, A Crime That Rocked Slovakia(I posted an article about it here and here)
A man accused of being a hired assassin has pleaded guilty to killing a journalist who investigated corruption in Slovakia — a shocking murder that led to the government's collapse in early 2018, along with the exit of several police and justice officials.
Miroslav Marcek pleaded guilty at the start of a high-profile trial for four people accused of carrying out a plot to kill reporter Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, in their home. At the time of his death, Kuciak, 27, had been reporting on alleged ties between high-ranking people in Slovakia's government and the Italian mafia. He and Kusnirova were shot to death.
"I am guilty in point one," Marcek told a special criminal court after prosecutors read indictments related to the murders on Monday, according to The Slovak Spectator. He later testified that the job of killing Kuciak had come to him through his cousin and co-defendant, Tomas Szabo.
While Kuciak was the target, it seems that Kusnirova's death resulted from an oversight as Marcek approached the house: He had not covered his face.
Asked why he killed Kusnirova, Marcek replied, "I saw the fact that when I knocked on the door without a balaclava, that it was not possible to just let it go," according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Report, which is monitoring the hearing.
Prosecutors have accused a businessman named Marian Kocner of being the crime's mastermind, alleging that the contract killings cost nearly $80,000. In court on Monday, Kocner pleaded not guilty.
One year before his death, Kuciak had accused the businessman of threatening him because the journalist had published a story about Kocner. Kocner has denied playing a role in the killings. When he was formally charged in connection with the crime last spring, Kocner was already facing unrelated charges such as forgery.
Last month, the special criminal court approved a plea deal with Zoltan Andrusko, a fifth defendant who prosecutors say has been cooperating with police since early in the investigation. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and could go free sometime after serving more than six years, according to Slovakian public broadcaster RTVS.
The other four accused conspirators refused a plea deal.
The slain journalist had worked on projects related to cases of broad corruption, drawing on sources such as the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
In the wake of Kuciak's death, Slovakia elected political novice Zuzana Caputova as its first female president last year. Caputova, an attorney, has promised to root out corruption.
Kuciak was regarded as a rising star in journalism. As a reporter for Aktuality.sk, he and a colleague were recognized with an award in 2016 for their work exposing how addicts and impoverished people were duped into signing documents as part of schemes to fraudulently liquidate companies.
(I posted an article about it here)
Journalist Lyra McKee, 29, who was murdered as she reported on riots in Derry last year, has been honoured with a Posthumous Master of Arts Degree in Online Journalism from Birmingham City University.
Lyra wrote extensively about post-conflict society, most notably in her article The Ceasefire Babies: Why did the suicide rate in Northern Ireland soar following the Good Friday Agreement?
At the time of her death Lyra was researching unsolved killings in Northern Ireland in the 20th century and was awaiting the publication of her non-fiction book Angels with Blue Faces.
Lyra was also a passionate advocate for LGBT+ rights and delivered the powerful TED Talk ‘How uncomfortable conversations can save lives’, at 2017’s TEDx Stormont Women, about the 2016 Orlando shootings.
Lyra studied the distance learning master’s degree at BCU between 2012 and 2014.
Professor Paul Bradshaw, Course Leader for the MA Data Journalism and the MA Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism at Birmingham City University, said: “Lyra’s path to studying journalism at Birmingham City University was, like her, special.
“The tenacity and creativity that took her to BCU continued throughout her work here, and on into the successes that led to her pausing her studies.
“Lyra was a very special student, a very special writer, and an inspiration to many. It was especially important to see her achievements during that time recognised by the University — and this award demonstrates that.”
At the ceremony held at Symphony Hall, Lyra’s sister Nichola Corner and brother-in-law John Corner accepted the award from Professor Alison Honour, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean for the Faculty of Art, Design and Media.
Birmingham City University Vice Chancellor Philip Plowden spoke about Lyra’s life and work: “Lyra was 29 when she was killed.
“She was an outstanding young journalist whose book Angels with Blue Faces was about to be published. She wrote about the consequences of the Troubles, (in the) world in which she had grown up.”
“There are no positives to be drawn from her death, we are all the poorer for it.
“But it reminds us why we need great journalists; we need those who can uncover truths and open our eyes to things we may have chosen not to notice.
“I am very proud that Lyra was part of our community and I’m proud that she was such a powerful example of our individual ability, each and every one of us, to work to change the world around us.”
Lyra won the Sky News Young Journalist Award in 2006 aged 16. A decade later she was listed among Forbes Magazine’s Thirty under 30 in Media in Europe.
Lyra held journalism training courses for The Times and The Sunday Times and, in 2016, delivered a presentation at BCU on class bias in the industry.
Just a month before her death she was among those listed in The Irish Times’ Best of Irish: 10 rising stars of Irish writing.
Journalistic commitments meant Lyra never actually graduated from her MA course in 2014.
Lyra’s sister, Nichola Corner, paid tribute to her sibling: “Lyra worked tirelessly not just in her journalism but in helping others around a wide range of causes, in Belfast and beyond, by opening doors and helping others gain useful contacts and opportunities.
“She made friendships in all walks of life, and it was the same attention to people that drove her to succeed in her writing.
“We feel very honoured and privileged that the university has conferred this honour upon her. We wish she’d been here to accept the award for herself, but we continue to be proud of her achievements as we’ve always been”.
The for same sex couples to be allowed to marry was a topic frequently written about by Lyra as was the power vacuum at Stormont.
Last week same sex marriages became legal in Northern Ireland and power sharing resumed at Stormont.
A memorial anthology of Lyra’s articles, Lost, Found, Remembered, will be released on 22 March ahead of the first anniversary of her death on 18 April.