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Greece: Little progress on Karaivaz murder investigation six months…

Greece: Little progress on Karaivaz murder investigation six months on

After six-month anniversary of assassination, IPI urges fresh impetus in police probe

To mark the six-month anniversary of the assassination of veteran Greek crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, the IPI global network urges Greek law enforcement authorities to redouble efforts to bring those responsible for the targeted assassination to justice. We call on authorities not to let Karaivaz’s murder become another long-running and damaging case of impunity for the killing of a journalist within the European Union.

On April 9, 2021, Karaivaz, an experienced reporter who worked for the TV channel STAR and ran a news website focusing on crime and policing, was ambushed by two men on a scooter and gunned down outside his home in broad daylight with a silenced weapon. Police said the “professional” style of the hit indicted the involvement of organised crime groups, which have carried out a number of targeted killings in recent years and which Karaivaz was known to have investigated.

Immediately after the murder, IPI and our partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) wrote to authorities including the prime minister and the minister of citizen protection urging them to ensure the probe by the Hellenic Police was conducted swiftly, thoroughly and professionally. We received no response. However, the government responded to an alert on the Council of Europe’s platform for the safety of journalists, stressing that investigations are continuing as a matter of priority and that authorities “have spared no effort in their search to identify the perpetrators and motives”.

However, despite the collection of substantial amounts of data, security camera footage and forensic analysis, since then no suspects have been publicly identified and no arrests have been made. Public information about the status of the investigation remains scarce, as details of the preliminary investigation have been kept secret under the Greek Code of Criminal Procedure. While we welcome the individual efforts of those involved in the investigation, the lack of communication from police and the Ministry of Citizen Protection means that every month that passes dents hope that those behind the killing – including potential perpetrators, facilitators, go-between and masterminds – will ever be held accountable for the crime.

This is deeply concerning, as impunity for fatal attacks on journalists remains one of the biggest issues for media freedom in the EU. In Greece, the 2010 shooting of radio manager, blogger and investigative journalist Socratis Giolias remains mired in impunity. The longer that these kinds of attacks go unpunished, the more it encourages others thinking about silencing journalists to act. The recent recommendation by the European Commission on the safety of journalists is clear: states must act swiftly to prevent the emergence of a culture of impunity regarding attacks against journalists. We urge Greek authorities to implement the recommendation.

After the six-month anniversary of the murder, and ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2, we renew our call for all those responsible to be identified and prosecuted. IPI and its partners in the MFRR intend to hold a media freedom mission to Greece in the coming months to assess the main challenges facing independent journalism. The safety of journalists and impunity will be two central themes we hope to discuss with government representatives. We hope that during this time meaningful progress can be made. In the meantime, we will continue to honour Karaivaz’s memory and push for justice for both him and his family.

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United Kingdom: MFRR partners join call for justice for…

United Kingdom: MFRR partners join call for justice for Martin O’Hagan

Twenty years ago today, Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan was shot dead in Lurgan, Northern Ireland. To this day, no one has been held to account for his brutal murder. The undersigned partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) stand in solidarity with O’Hagan’s family, colleagues and friends as we call for justice in his case.

On 28 September 2001, O’Hagan was shot several times from a passing car while walking home from a local pub with his wife, who was not hurt in the attack. As a reporter, O’Hagan specialised in stories about drug gangs and paramilitary organisations. Over the years, he had repeatedly been threatened as a result of his journalistic work.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ), of which O’Hagan was a member, has been leading the call for a panel of international experts to be convened to investigate the unsolved murder and the subsequent police failings. Amidst growing worries about the safety of journalists in Northern Ireland, the MFRR shares the deep concern over the failure to hold those responsible to account and the implications of this enduring legacy of impunity, and supports the NUJ in their campaign for justice for Martin O’Hagan. It is long overdue.

Signed by:

  • Article 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
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Malta: Tycoon Yorgen Fenech to face trial for murder…

Malta: Tycoon Yorgen Fenech to face trial for murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Yorgen Fenech, a Maltese business mogul, has been indicted for the murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 and will face a trial by jury on a date yet to be set. Fenech faces charges of complicity in murder and criminal association. So far, Vince Muscat has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to the murder earlier this year. Two further alleged hitmen, the brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio will also face trial. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) welcomes Fenech’s indictment and urges the Maltese authorities to finally end impunity and punish everyone involved in this heinous crime.

Almost four years have passed since Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in a car bombing on 16 October 2017 close to her home in northern Malta. Her reporting focused on high-level corruption, including investigations into the Panama Papers in 2016. She was investigating possible corruption in a contract between Fenech and the Maltese government for the building of a power station when she was killed.

While Vince Muscat, one of the hitmen contracted for the murder, has been sentenced to prison, Yorgen Fenech is considered the mastermind behind the murder by Caruana’s family. On 20 November 2019, Fenech was arrested while he was leaving Malta on his private yacht. He has been under arrest since, undergoing a pre-trial compilation of evidence where he pleaded not guilty.

The prosecutors who filed the bill of indictment in court today, Wednesday 18 August, are said to be pushing for a life in prison sentence for complicity in murder and an additional 20 to 30-year sentence for criminal association. Melvin Theuma, the assassination plot’s self-confessed middleman, had previously claimed that Fenech tasked him with organising the murder. The indictment bill reads: “Yorgen Fenech wanted Melvin Theuma to find someone willing to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia.” The date for the trial is yet to be set.

Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, the EFJ President, reacted: “Impunity for crimes against journalists must end. We are hopeful that justice will finally be served and we will closely observe the upcoming trials. Too often, it is only hitmen, if even, that get caught, while the masterminds behind the crimes are running free. The Maltese authorities must punish everyone involved in the brutal murder.”

In July 2021, a public inquiry into the assassination found the state of Malta responsible for her death, saying that the state had failed to recognise risks to the reporter’s life and take reasonable steps to avoid them. The inquiry concluded that a culture of impunity was created from the highest echelons of power in Malta, singling out former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for enabling this culture of impunity.

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Malta: Yorgen Fenech to stand trial for murder of…

Malta: Yorgen Fenech to stand trial for murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia

Prosecutors seek life imprisonment on charges of complicity in murder and criminal association.

Maltese prosecutors today indicted the man accused of ordering the 2017 murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in another important milestone in the fight against impunity and for full justice for her assassination.

On August 18, prosecutors filed the bill of indictment in court seeking life imprisonment for businessman Yorgen Fenech on charges of complicity in murder and criminal association, paving the way for him to stand trial by jury over the 2017 killing.

Prosecutors allege that in April that year, Fenech contacted a middleman about finding someone who could carry out the murder, provided €150,000 in cash to pay the alleged hitmen and ultimately gave the green light for the fatal car bomb to be detonated.

“Today’s indictment of the man alleged to have effectively orchestrated and funded the assassination is a milestone in the fight against impunity and another important step down the road to full justice for Daphne’s murder”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “Though a long and at times painful process for her family, we are glad to see the compilation of evidence result in a bill of indictment by prosecutors.

“The role of judging responsibility for this horrific crime will now lie with a Maltese jury. Until then, we continue to demand justice for Daphne’s murder and consequences for the corruption she exposed. She deserves the truth; her family deserve the truth. This case has global significance: impunity for those responsible cannot be allowed to continue.”

Long fight for justice

The long-sought indictment comes 46 months after the assassination in October 2017 and three weeks after an independent public inquiry concluded that the state must bear shared responsibility in fomenting a culture of impunity in which the murder could be carried out.

The business mogul has been in preventive custody since November 2019 after being arrested while allegedly trying to flee Malta aboard his yacht. Considerable evidence against him has since been compiled during a lengthy legal process.

IPI understands it is expected to take around one year for the trial to begin.

The alleged middleman, taxi driver Vincent Muscat, has already been sentenced to 15 years behind bars after changing his plea to guilty in February. The two alleged hitmen, brothers George and Alfred Degiorgio, are set to face trial over executing the contract killing. Both maintain their innocence.

The bill of indictment, a formal criminal accusation that a person has committed a crime, came the same day as Fenech’s legal team again requested bail in court. The prosecution contested by presenting WhatsApp messages sent by the accused which they allege demonstrate his intention to flee Malta after the assassination, which Fenech denies. It was also alleged Fenech ordered weapons including grenades and rifles with hundreds of bullets, as well as a gun silencer and 20 grams of potassium sodium cyanide powder.

Maltese media reported that it was understood prosecutors were seeking life imprisonment for the crime of complicity in murder and a further 20 to 30 years for criminal association. The indictment was filed by the Deputy Attorney General Philip Galea Farrugia.