Andreea Badiu-Slabu is one of Breaking the Glass Ceiling’s regular contributors.
On 17th October, the world of journalism lost Daphne Caruana Galizia, a woman with a resounding voice. She started her own blog in 2008 called Running Commentary to express her views of what was right and wrong in Malta. As her former employer wrote in the “Malta Independent”:
“For many people, looking up her blog was the first thing they did each day and the last thing too. Now there is just emptiness. A silence that speaks volumes.”
She was committed to writing and to unveiling the truth. Galizia was a crusader for corruption and non-transparency with her thoughts being read by a wide audience. Malta has now the attention of the world as it turned into a country in which a journalist is assassinated because of her sharp pen. Everyone, starting with the prime minister of the country, is condemning her murder. European Commission first vice-president, Frans Timmermans, tweeted that:
“if journalists are silenced, our freedom is lost.”
But, freedom continues to be challenged and it tragically leads to the loss of people like Caruana Galizia. The Committee to Protect Journalists gathered data on the numbers of media workers and journalists that were killed between 1992 and 2017. The numbers are staggering as you can see below. 1262 journalists were killed with the motive confirmed, 102 media workers, and 496 journalists were killed with the motive not confirmed.
The motive for a killing is considered “confirmed” if there is reasonable certainty that a journalist was killed in direct reprisal for his or her work, in crossfire or while on a dangerous assignment. A case is “unconfirmed” when it is possible that a journalist was killed because of his or her work but the motive is unclear.
Caruana Galizia was dedicated to reporting on the wrongdoings of the country and her investigation of the Panama Papers, the leaked documents from the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca, triggered snap elections this year. Her death adds to the rising violence against journalists. A high number of them were killed in war zones but a lot of them have been picked out by gangs in places like Brazil or Mexico, and by terror groups. As FT reports, Galizia’s death is more similar to what we have seen in the past in the Soviet Union and current Russia. Her sons remember the threats and intimidation their mother received throughout the years. “In 1996, the front door was set on fire,” says Andrew, one of her sons. “Around about that time, too, someone killed the dog. A few years later, the neighbour’s car burned out; his house has almost exactly the same name as ours.” In 2006, a serious attack took place that almost burned down their house. “We grew up with them. Phone calls, letters, notes pinned to the door. Then when mobile phones arrived, text messages. And later of course, emails, comments on her blog”, says Matthew, her son. Prime minister Muscat is willing to accept outside help with the investigation as the country has limited resources to make sure the investigation is independent.
Now, Caruana Galizia’s death leaves more unanswered questions as it continues to shake not just Europe, but the world. The problem of corruption, that she tried so hard to fight, is still there and won’t go away soon. It’s embedded in the political system of the country. The director of the Open Society European Policy Institute, Heather Grabbe, states that “the attitude of the EU is to let countries correct these things themselves democratically”. She continues by questioning if the state really wants to correct corruption or its capability to do so. There is a huge divide between Nationalist and Labour in Malta. Mario Thomas Vassallo, a public policy lecturer at the University of Malta, says:
“You’re a Nationalist or a Labour supporter before you’re Maltese”
That’s why a crucial moment for the country was the election of Mr. Muscat’s Labour government in 2013. It brought the end to an era dominated by the Nationalist party. Changes took place concerning gender identity and same-sex marriage. Also, the GDP grew 5.5% last year. But, some say this might be a sign of more political control over the public institutions. Even the way they managed the judiciary was suspicious as a third of magistrates and judges are linked to the party. Another growing issue tormenting Malta is its online gambling industry which represents 10% of the country’s GDP. Its economy is relying on wealthy outsiders and the authorities don’t bother to urge transparency.
Daphne Caruana Galizia fought for freedom and justice until her last day, trying to reveal the truth and bring change in her country. As Herman Grech, an online editor at the Times of Malta, says: “The attack on one of us will not stop us from shining a light where others want darkness.”
Note from the Editor
I knew Daphne since I was a baby. She was a common figure at my parents’ parties and dinners, always engaged in some heated political conversation. I grew up with her personally, but every single Maltese person my age grew up with Daphne. She was a voice that, whether you agreed or disagreed with her, you listened to. She was absolutely fearless in her pursuit of what she thought was right and just. The question of whether we liked how she wrote or not is now irrelevant, because the voice that I, and so many others, grew up with has now been stopped.
I remember the moment I found out about her assassination. I was shocked into silence and my hands were shaking. I couldn’t stop watching the news for three days straight. Yet the more news I watched the more frustrated I became. Daphne’s murder was and is being used as a political tool by many, polarising the debate along the familiar lines of Labour and Nationalist. This is not a time to be polarised. This is not a time to attack one another. It is now that we need to come together as a people, because on the day that Daphne was taken our country came under attack, our freedom came under attack.
There are many voices weighing in on what we do next, and I understand I am only adding to a cacophany of opinion. All I think is right to do is to be united. How can we stop more of our people being silenced if we continue to silence each other with accusations and insults? It is only when we stand as one that we can take on those that wish to divide us. I look to the last line of our anthem that was confirmed to be our national anthem when we became free from the British in 1964. To me this line tells us what we are and should be in times like this; independent, free and together.
Seddaq il-għaqda fil-Maltin u s-sliem.
Dallison Paul, 2017 “The murder of a journalist”, Politico
Henley Jon, 2017 “Daphne Caruana Galizia: Establishment was out to get her, says family”, The Guardian
Peel Michael, 2017 “Brutal murder exposes Malta’s murky politics”, Financial Times
Peel Michael, 2017 “Maltese investigative journalist killed by car bomb”, Financial Times