I had just switched on my phone after landing and the first thing I see is a news alert that there was a car bomb in Bidnija, my bones immediately told me that the victim was Daphne Caruana Galizia. A few minutes later my fears were confirmed once I saw a TOM article confirming this. Daphne wasn’t just a journalist but a daughter, wife, mother, a beacon of hope to so many people, a symbol of resilience, a “Mara bil-bajd”. Politico named her on the 28th most influential people for 2017 and described her as a “OneWoman Wikileaks” who is keeping the Maltese Government on its toes.
Truth is this article was supposed to be published the morning after Daphne’s assassination, but I couldn’t bring words to paper. For many of us living in the civilised world, freedom of expression is taken for granted, sometimes a bit too much. Malta is unfortunately lacking when it comes to press freedom and laws that should protect the media, this can still be seen by the existence of criminal libel with a garnishee order for starters (although there is a draft motion in parliament to quash this). Living in a civilised country in 2017 should come with the peace of mind that the rule of law still exists and is effective in its’ duty – that of the protection of its citizens.
There has been an observable lack of enforcement by police with regards to serious graft allegations, who sat on files documenting things in the past few years. Here I’m not just talking about the Panama Papers because there have been other cases of corruption which Caruana Galizia uncovered but are still a file on someone’s desk. A few minutes before her death she published that there are crooks everywhere and that the situation is very desperate, later in the evening in her murders aftermath, a text she sent to a friend of hers in which she stated that it’s as if she felt her time is nigh was published. It’s harrowing to even begin to think how she must have been feeling.
Growing up I always took a keen interest in current affairs, probably owing to my father’s involvement in broadcasting as a video/photo journalist and in recent years I decided to ply my trade in this field. Daphne was the main Maltese journalist I really looked up to along with Khadijah Ismayilova for their resilience and persistence in their search for the truth. Khadijah was imprisoned for doing her job and threatened with her life, but in this case, even Azerbaijan didn’t resort to murder!
The barbarity of this attack shows that Malta has unfortunately fallen into the sorry state where everything goes. Over the past couple of years, the underworld has been killing and blowing each other off but this is the first time in which plastic explosives (the kind terrorists and the mafia back in the 80s loved) have been used. The rule of law has failed and there’s only one law – that of the jungle! The Daily Mail called Malta a gangster state where criminals running money for dodgy politicians call the shots.
Daphne on Monday unfortunately joined Anna Politkovskaya, who was highly critical of the Russian’s involvement in Chechnya although she wasn’t blown up to smithereens. Daphne was surely close to publishing some highly damaging information and whoever ordered her murder wanted to send a message. Malta, on Monday, joined the list of deadliest countries for journalists, a “restrictive club” which include the likes of Iraq, Yemen, Russia and the Philippines just to mention a few.
Her death also leaves a lot of unanswered questions and not just about it but also about how people reacted! The fact that the police commissioner wasn’t anywhere to be seen, the photos that emerged of forensic experts laughing between them while off site, and police officers posting on Facebook that she got what she deserved is appalling. Even more appalling is a former junior minister saying that journalists should be reprimanded for overstepping the line!
Tributes immediately started in honour of the world-renowned journalist from all blocks of society. People changed their profile pictures to black and posted very sombre posts. Ultimately this assassination has awoken a sleeping giant and it is now up to us to continue where she left off and bring those responsible to justice. How we react now will not only define us but shape the future. It is imperative to keep pushing boundaries!
Condolences go out to Daphne’s family, friends and colleagues.