Nicola Driscoll-Davies reports from Malta on a vigil to mark two years since the assassination of the country’s most famous journalist.

Vigils have been held across the world to mark the two-year anniversary of the late journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Malta’s most influential journalist – who had a 30-year career and was assassinated on 16 October 2017 outside her home in a car bomb – was commemorated in Malta, London, Brussels, Vienna, Australia, Berlin, and Luxembourg.  

Hundreds gathered in Valletta, the capital of Malta, and marched to a protest memorial, situated across from Malta’s law courts, including Caruana Galizia’s family. People carried candles and placards which read: The Situation is STILL Desperate; It Wasn’t Femicide; Truth and Justice; and Joseph Muscat, Are You Afraid of the Truth?

A number of speakers addressed the crowd including Amy Mallia, the 17-year-old niece of Caruana Galizia, who moved hundreds of people to tears. “On 16 October 2017 I was in a lesson at school being asked what I liked to do as work in my future,” she said. “I remember saying, without hesitation, that I would like to be a journalist like my aunt – only to go home a few hours later and find out she had been murdered.

“Daphne was, and is, someone who I look up to. She never gave in no matter what life and people threw her way. 

“These past two years have been a blur… being verbally abused in the street and being told at school that it would had been better if someone had placed a bomb under my seat too. That is what our normal has become.

Nicola Driscoll-Davies attends the vigil in Malta. Photo: John Dougall

“What my family go through on a daily basis should not be normal. But, then again, Malta is not a normal country right now. Of course, my aunt would not have been killed by a car bomb if it were. My aunt deserved a better version of Malta she was fighting for up until her last moment.”

Ana Gomes, a former Portuguese socialist MEP, recalled her first meeting with Caruana Galizia in 2017, following the Panama Papers revelations, on an official EU visit to Malta. 

“We know journalists are threatened in other countries because they follow the example of Daphne and keep investigating and exposing the truth and exposing the corrupt and the criminal,” she said. “Daphne worked tirelessly against corruption and that’s why they needed to silence her. They needed to silence Daphne not just to punish her and her family but to indeed deter everyone else and that’s why we are here. We are not fearing them and we are here and we keep her fight. 

“Several of our countries have turned into real laundromats – it is not only happening here in Malta, it is happening throughout Europe and throughout the world. We cannot allow this to go on and we cannot allow the criminals, the mafias, to capture our governments to capture our parliaments and our politicians.”

Daphne Caruana Galizia is a name now recognised worldwide, Gomes added, and although she “died in the most brutal way, she is alive”.

“Daphne is inspiring us to go on against the criminals, the mafioso, for justice to be delivered. Daphne is Invicta,” she said.

Lifeblood of Democracy

Malta’s Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, cancelled his planned meeting this week with Harlem Desir, Representative of Freedom of the Media for the Organisation for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE).

Asked if he believed more journalists will be murdered in Europe as a result of Caruana Galizia’s assassination, he exclusively told Byline Times: “I think that impunity in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia is putting at risk other journalists in Malta and in Europe… Each time the attack or a killing of a journalist is not finished and each time the perpetrators or the masterminds are not brought to justice it means that impunity prevails and we don’t want the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia to become a new symbol of this impunity. 

“It has been a terrible shock because it was the first time since ever I think that such an horrendous crime against a journalist happened in Europe. It happened before because of international terrorists such as Charlie Hebdo in France, but this crime has been committed against an investigative journalist and we still don’t know, apart from the three suspects, who is behind the crime, who decided it, who organised it or who paid for it.

“This is the responsibility of the Maltese state to ensure that all those involved will face justice, will be identified and will be brought to justice because justice is not only something we owe to Daphne Caruana Galizia and her family, but also to the whole of  Maltese society and democracy and to all journalists who are facing threats because they are publishing on corruption cases and publishing critical views and holding those in power to account. 

“Journalists are part of the democratic life and it is not acceptable that journalists who play such a vital role in democracy are facing the threats while they are doing [their work] on behalf of all citizens to allow us to live in a free and fair society.”

Malta is a beautiful country and deserves praise for its history, beauty and citizens. But the fear politicians and journalists face in their daily lives, and its normalisation, means that investigating corruption there is now just as dangerous and deadly as war reporting.

Main photo by Megan Mallia

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