Malta must work harder to better protect journalists, the government was told at the United Nations’ universal periodic review on Wednesday.

Delegations from UN member states used their allotted time to insist that cases of violence against journalists were prosecuted and called on the government to ensure that freedom of expression was safeguarded.

The UN reviews all member states by analysing what they did to fulfil their human rights obligations within the framework of the Human Rights Council’s work to address violations.

The last review was made in 2013. The Maltese delegation, headed by Equality Minister Helena Dalli, faced calls for an independent inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, with a number of delegates saying the killing brought to the surface shortcomings in the state of the island’s rule of law.

Some of the delegations also called on the Maltese government to step up its efforts in dealing with money laundering and corruption.

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“Malta needs to more aggressively address money laundering, human trafficking and the funding for terrorism. Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder brought to light several shortcomings in the state of the rule of law.

Malta had consistently bolstered its legal framework

“We recommend that Malta complies with EU anti-money laundering directives as well as increases the number of investigations and prosecutions of corruption and financial crimes,” the US delegation said.

The government was also urged to better address racism and the integration of migrants. According to several delegations, the government needed to introduce more measures to aid the integration of migrants and ensure they were not discriminated against.

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Several of the delegations also called on the government to set up a National Human Rights Institution, also urging it to continue working on ensuring women were protected.

Though she did not react to the questions raised and the recommendations made, in three speeches during the session Dr Dalli listed a serious of measures implemented by the government in recent years. She told the delegations answers to their questions would be come later.

On Ms Caruana Galizia’s murder, Dr Dalli said investigations had kicked off immediately, with the local police authorities working with the FBI, Europol and the Netherlands Forensic Institute.

Referring to the Media and Defamation Act, which came into force earlier this year, the minister said this had improved the protection of journalists, pointing to the removal of criminal libel as an example.

“Threats and fear of violence can be prosecuted upon a report being made to the police. Any person has the right to challenge the Commissioner of the Police for failing to act on a report being made to the police,” Dr Dalli remarked.

She said Malta had “consistently bolstered its legal framework” to address the serious issues surrounding money laundering.

“Malta has increased human resources at the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit to strengthen its supervisory role to further mitigate the risks of money laundering. The FIAU’s independence is guaranteed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and ensures compliance through fines,” she said.

Dr Dalli told the delegates the setting up of a National Human Rights Institution would soon be discussed.

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