One year ago today, Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese journalist who exposed corruption and criticized the Maltese political establishment, was assassinated. She had received several death threats; fires had been set near her home; her dog had been killed. She knew she was in danger. The final line in her last blog says: “There are crooks everywhere you look. The situation is desperate.”
She posted her blog, as any of us might, stood up from her desk and went out. Within half an hour the car she was driving blew up.
Tonight, we went to a vigil held at St James’s Church, Picadilly organised by International PEN, other NGOs and Maltese citizens living in London. The church is opposite Malta House. I’d guess there were two hundred people there, maybe more. Some holding images of Daphne, some with tealights, candles, other forms of light. There were speeches calling for justice for Daphne, for, at the very least, a public inquiry to be held. Three people have been arrested for her killing but there doesn’t seem to be much appetite to find out who ordered it. On the contrary, life has been made extremely difficult for her husband and sons as they try to discover the truth.
We crossed the road and laid flowers and lights at the door of Malta House. It felt urgent to be part of this vigil, as we wait, with little optimism it has to be said, to hear what really happened to Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Embassy. Knowing that human rights lawyers such as Waleed Abu Al-Khair and bloggers like Raif Badawi are still in prison in Saudi. Knowing, it has to be said, that so many writers and human rights workers are in Turkish prisons too. Because of their work. Because they speak truth to power, because they question power. And maybe because power has stopped caring when its excesses are publicly exposed.
These days we need courageous journalists more than ever. Is that why more and more journalists are coming under attack?
At this year’s Nollaig na mBan celebration at the Irish Writers’ Centre I spoke about Daphne as part of the Freedom to Write Campaign (the other speakers, about other women writers who have been killed because of their work) were June Considine, Liz McManus, and Éilís ní Dhuibhne). Here’s an extract from that speech, to refresh your memory about who Daphne Caruana Galizia is and what she stood for. What she still stands for.
“I knew nothing about Malta until Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated but the more I read of her work, the more familiar it began to feel. She wrote against the marriage bar for working women & the financial dominance of husbands (it persisted, as legal fact, until the mid-90s); she wrote in favour of divorce (legalised in 2011) and of same sex marriage, legalised last September. Malta is the only EU country that has a total, outright ban on abortion in any circumstances – Maltese women go to Italy or elsewhere for terminations.
Daphne worked as a newspaper columnist and editor until her death. Newspapers have lawyers that try to anticipate and avoid lawsuits, but her blog, Running Commentary, allowed her to be more expressive and direct in challenging corruption and cronyism in Maltese politics, to say what she damn well meant & to hell with consequence. She was provocative and controversial but her courage is breathtaking. She investigated connections between politicians and money, between business and politicians, politicians and known criminals/underworld figures/rogue states. As the first person to break news of Maltese involvement in Panama, Politico named her as one of “28 people who are shaping, shaking and stirring Europe” & called her a “one-woman WikiLeaks”.
She received frequent death threats. Her home was subject to more than one arson attack, the family dog was killed and its body left on the doorstep as a warning. She was the subject of a campaign to ruin her financially through libel suits which froze her bank account – still frozen at her death even though a crowdfunded precautionary fund had been paid to the courts.
Daphne broke news of members of the Maltese establishment’s links to Panama on 22nd February, 2017. You can read her own account of how she did it on her blog
In her last blog post she wrote about some of individuals she named in February: They “hunted around the world for a shady bank that would take them as clients. In the end they solved the problem by setting up a shady bank in Malta, hiding in plain sight. … There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”
That blog was posted on 16th October, 2017 at 2:35 pm.
Half an hour later she was dead.”
One year ago today.