by Neil Smart Costantino

The afternoon of 16 October 2017 will live long in Maltese History, as Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese investigative journalist and blogger who lifted the lid on Maltese Officials’ direct involvement in the global Panama Papers scandal, was brutally murdered in a car bomb. Not only has this been perceived as an attack on a Wife, and Mother, but also an attack on the Journalism Profession. In her last update to her website, just hours before the murder, she said the following: “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”


The Plot

16 October is being labelled as ‘Black Monday’ on the Maltese Media, and rightly so. Malta lost one of the most thorough investigative journalists in recent history. Her work may have been out of line sometimes but her contribution in major situations, cannot be disputed.

Caruana Galizia, along with her son, Matthew, played a fundamental role in uncovering one of the biggest scandals to shake the world in recent years, the Panama Papers. When the scandal broke, she was the first to announce the involvement of the Prime Ministers closest personnel, with 3 Companies being linked to Malta.

Two of which were linked to then-Energy Minister, Konrad Mizzi, who was then given the portfolio to a ‘Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister’, and the other company was linked to the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri. Caruana Galizia fought tooth and nail to bring these two to justice, so much so that during the run-up of the 2017 General Election in June, she claimed that the Third Company linked to Malta, was in fact owned by the Wife of the Prime Minister.

She also played a major role to speak about kickbacks that government officials were allegedly receiving from deals with top Azeri Officials amongst many others.

Silencing the Media

Sadly enough, this is not the first instance whereby the Media has been silenced. Most notably, in Turkey, where in July 2017, reporters were put to trial for their work being labelled as aiding the Coup Attempt in the country. This is indeed one of the most worrying features of a collapsing democracy. The media, be it through Social Media or Reporting, is a fundamental link between citizens and reality. The second that you attempt to demean the work of the media, you are indirectly attacking the Freedom of Expression, and worse than that, you are showing that you may have something to hide. This can be noted in the US Elections, whereby now President Donald Trump used to call out members of well-respected media outlets during his rallies, calling them liars and the popular, ‘Fake News’.

The Political Giants in Europe all expressed their deepest condolences to the Galizia Family and gave their views on the worrying situation. Guy Verhofstadt, Antonio Tajani and even Julian Assange were amongst the most notable people to call for justice to be done in honour of Galizia.

The Aftermath

The day after the assassination, saw the first comments on Social Media by Daphne’s son, Matthew. The Pulitzer Prize winner, in an emotional tribute to his late mother started strongly by saying;

“My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong journalists. But she was also targeted because she was the only person doing so. This is what happens when the institutions of the state are incapacitated: the last person left standing is often a journalist. Which makes her the first person left dead.”

He concluded by shifting the responsibility onto the shoulder of the Prime Minister, along with the Police Commissioner amongst others, for taking no action whenever the Journalist was being threatened or demeaned. This led to the Maltese Civil Society Network to organize Two Different Protests, both calling for the resignation of the Police Commissioner.

What Happens now?

In the meantime, a new group called ‘Occupy Justice’ formed, and camped outside the Office of the Prime Minister until he accepts responsibility for the murder. In a European State, fresh from chairing the Presidency of the Council of the EU, this is nothing short of worrying. The culture of impunity that exists is putting the safety of Journalists and other Investigative media outlets in a state where they do not feel safe.

Members of the European Parliament have called upon the European Commission to embark on an investigation of the murder. Daphne may have left the world, but the strong impact that her murder has made, both on the Freedom of Expression, and the situation in Malta, will definitely live on for very long.

Quoting a Maltese Politician, Mark Anthony Sammut, “Daphne was not killed by a bomb, but from a state that failed, and from each and every one of us that was willing to close an eye because the economic situation is strong, because we’re comfortable. Whether we like it or not, we have regressed, rather than progressed. We are in a situation where we are willing to let a Nation deteriorate, just because our financial situation is better than what it used to be, to the extent that we are ready to see one of us, be killed.”

In addition to this, several Vigils have taken place over a couple of days, even in Brussels. These have attracted the attention of many International Media Outlets. must be said, that for a country aspiring to become one of Europe’s Finest, the situation, really is desperate.

17 December 2017
This text was published in Bullseye issue 70