Freedom of the press does not always correspond with the freedom to write things as they are. It happens in Malta, where an Italian journalist, Nello Scavo, correspondent of the newspaper Avvenire was threatened by a former official of the Maltese government for having published in the newspaper compromising news for the government itself in relation to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the suspicious pushback of migrants by the “so-called” Libyan Coast Guard.

Avvenire is a newspaper owned by the Italian bishops which in recent years has distinguished itself for its investigative journalism, so much so that it has earned the esteem even of competing newspapers and become the third Italian general newspaper by number of readers.

Recently, together with The Guardian, it was the only newspaper to document the beatings of migrants along the Balkan route by European police forces, in the silence of Frontex, the agency for the European coast guard, which for a long time denied.

Neville Gafà

The investigations that bother

Scavo lives under guard from 2019 because of the threats he received for his inquiries from Neville Gafà Maltese fixer, former coordinator of the office of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

In particular, Scavo had denounced Malta’s active role in the pushback to Italy of some migrant boats that were destined to dock in Malta, the safe harbor assigned to them.

The journalist  revealed the identity of 12 people who died on a migrant rubber boat after the Maltese authorities left them adrift for several days over the Easter weekend. Fiftyone  survivors were sent back to Libya where they were locked up in a migrant detention center in appalling conditions.

He also also wrote of an investigation into the deaths and other accidents related to the lack of rescue at sea. In front of a court, Gafà claimed his role in the refusal of boats: it was him who signed an agreement with the then government of Tripoli for the preparation of a ghost fleet of fishing boats whose task was to intercept migrants at sea to return them to the so-called Libyan Coast Guard before they landed in Malta and therefore before it was the island’s responsibility to welcome them.

The Malta-Gate

Scavo and Caruana are linked by investigations into the Maltese government’s trade. The people who have been threatening him in recent months are in all likelihood the same people who have to do with the murder of the Maltese journalist in 2017, because the narrative is the same, that is, the trafficking of the Maltese government.

Caruana denounced for years in his blog “Running commentary” the corruption of his country and the shady relations of the Muscat government with foreign businessmen, to whom the government was willing to sell Maltese citizenship – and therefore the possibility of evading some fiscal controls – as well as the direct involvement of the Muscat family in illegal trafficking and financing even from countries such as the Azerbaijan.

For its part, Scavo has been at the forefront of reporting not only the illegal rejections but also, together with the journalists consortium Project Daphne, named in memory of the Caruana, the illicit trade in Libyan oil between Malta and Sicily. In fact, Malta has long been the site of oil smuggling between these areas.

Twitter threatenings

The threats against him by Neville Gafà began two years ago following these investigations and following the revelation, also supported by photographic documents, that a delegation of the Libyan coast guard had come to make an inspection in one italian  migrants sorting center. Among the members of this delegation was also Commander Bija, on whom hangs an international arrest warrant for human trafficking. The issue that the journalist denounced was related to the fact that the Italian government pays this coast guard, commanded by a person banned at the international level, whose assets have been seized and to which several countries including the US have raised a ban.

Gafà threatened the Italian journalist on twitter: “Stop your dirty business. If not, we will be stopping you “. “We will stop you – replied Scavo – Who exactly is this ‘we’? “. A question that Gafà however avoided answering.

There was a trial, from which Gafà was incredibly acquitted “for lack of evidence”. According to the Maltese court, given the ambiguity of the accused’s statement, there is no certain proof that Gafà knowingly wanted to intimidate the Italian journalist.

In the meantime, however, the journalist continues to do his job. And the threats continued too. At the end of a series of tweets from the anonymous account “Migrant rescue watch”, very close to the Libyan coast guard,  Gafà, replied to one of these refers to the reporter: “Keep in mind that the coward threatens only when he is safe, he finds the courage behind a keyboard ”. The reply was immediate: “In which place should I not feel safe, Mr. Gafà?”. No answer to this question either.

To be continued/2

Why Malta has a problem with freedom of information
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