Three years ago today, just before 3 pm, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia pressed publish on what would be her last ever blog post. Her now-famous last words read “there are crooks everywhere, the situation is desperate”- were about the then Chief of Staff Keith Schembri.
She closed her laptop, got in her rented car, and drove to an appointment at her local bank. But just several hundred metres from her home, a bomb underneath the passenger seat in her car was remotely detonated. She died instantly as the car was engulfed in flames and catapulted through the air into a nearby field.
The first person on the scene was one of her sons, Matthew who ran barefoot from their home when he heard the blast. He described being surrounded by parts of his mother’s body.
Her murder shook not just Malta but Europe and beyond. Since her untimely death, her name has become synonymous with media freedom, justice for journalists, and fearless, powerful, investigative journalism. Yet three years later, there is still no justice for those that ordered her killing.
Daphne Caruana Galizia was a brilliant journalist who unearthed scandals at the heart of Maltese government and within the highest echelons of the Maltese ‘elite’. She took no prisoners with her pen and ruthlessly demanded that those involved in corruption, nepotism, and scandals, be held to account. As well as her weekly column in The Malta Independent and her role as editor of Taste & Flair magazine, her blog “Running Commentary” was one of the most well-known sites in the country. On peak days, its readership could surpass 400,000- almost the population of the entire nation.
But her work and her tenacity made her a target. She feared no government official and didn’t hesitate to publish stories that would make other news portals shy away. This came at a price. She was verbally attacked, trolled, had her house set on fire, her dogs murdered on several occasions, received death threats, was abused in public and had countless libel cases filed against her. At the time of her death, 42. vexatious defamation cases were pending against her in the court, mainly from disgruntled politicians and officials who were annoyed their dirty dealings had been exposed.
The Maltese Labour Party and their supporters vilified her and made it one of their main priorities to dehumanise, denigrate, and humiliate her. In fact, an investigation by The Shift News found that private Labour Party Facebook groups were used to stir up hateful frenzies against her and coordinate trolling and written attacks. Members of these groups included Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the President, and senior party officials.
After her assassination, suspicion landed on Muscat and other members of his party. Daphne had linked them all to massive scandals including the Vitals Global Healthcare/Steward Health deal, the Electrogas/Azeri deal, the Panama Papers, secret shell companies designed for government kickbacks and money laundering, and countless other incidents.
Meanwhile, the men believed to have placed and detonated the bomb were arrested. The Maltese government seemed happy with this and little was done to find out who commissioned the attack and gave the order.
Muscat refused to open an independent inquiry into the circumstances around her murder and whether it could have been prevented. Fingers were pointing because she was left without protection despite having told the police of threats against her life, just weeks before she died. In fact, it took the Caruana Galizia family and a team of British lawyers and barristers taking them to the European Court of Human Rights and involving the Council of Europe, for things to move along
Then in November 2019, a businessman Yorgen Fenech was arrested on his yacht in the early hours of the morning. He had recently been revealed as the owner of a company 17 Black that was one of those involved in alleged money laundering and illicit dealings with those owned by Cheif of Staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi. He was also involved in the Electrogas deal that involved the Azeri state-owned company SOCAR. This deal saw Maltese taxpayers being ripped off to the tune of millions while those involved got filthy rich.
Fenech then accused Schembri of being the mastermind. Schembri had resigned less than a week after Fenech’s arrest from his role of Chief of Staff to Muscat.
Still, three years later, there is no justice for Daphne. Her family still do not have the answers they crave and those that masterminded her brutal assassination are walking around freely, taking luxurious holidays, and posting pictures on social media as if nothing has happened.
Every day, her family wake up to fight a new battle, hoping that today will be the day the house of cards will come crumbling down. Every day, they have to still face abuse and harassment from Labour Party loyalists. Every day, they wish that they did not have to be fighting for the right for their dead mother to have justice.
What happened to Daphne was a travesty and was the lowest point in EU history. The fact that a journalist was assassinated so brazenly and that 1095 days later, no one has been convicted is simply unacceptable. The climate of impunity, the coverups, the corruption, and the abuses of democracy and rule of law that have gone on in Malta under the nose of the EU, cannot be tolerated any more.
Daphne left behind a legacy of strength and determination. She also inspired countless others, myself included, to hold power to account, to unearth wrongdoing, and to be on the right side of history. But her death also serves as a reminder that when we start to denigrate and dehumanise journalists when we attack them and smear them in public, and when politicians abuse their power to suppress free speech, murder is only one step away.
I will never forget the moment I heard she had died and I will always have a heavy heart that her life was so violently taken by a gang of crooks, but I am thankful for the strength it’s given me to fight for what is right.
Many would like us to forget what happened to Daphne Caruana Galizia but we will never forget. I speak for myself and many other colleagues when I say that as long as there is breath in my body, I will do what I can to ensure that those who took her from us face justice.