A part of Malta died with her
Daphne was much more than a blogger. She was a national phenomenon, with nothing more than a keyboard, an internet connection, her cellphone and her mind, she uncovered more, analysed more, researched more and got to know more than anyone else.
Blowing up a journalist Mafia-style is easy. Blowing up 20 journalists standing shoulder to shoulder is not
Yet to my mind, and contrary to the impression given by almost all the international media, she was complicated, as the Facebook generation would put it. There were two Daphnes in one, committing cardinal sins against journalism one minute and holding its commandments up high, highest of all the next.
The sinner. She often failed to check her facts, she revealed her sources, applied double standards, attacked the person rather than the argument and given a choice between what she believed in and the facts, and she chose the former. Regularly, she was right but lost the argument because of the way she put it. I got into politics and spent almost my entire life trying to bury the legacy of 1980s Mintoffianism. Yet it never crossed my mind to call for a champagne celebration around his grave and then to proceed to take a piss on it. That was Daphne.
Then there was the other Daphne. She was a lion heart with every sinew of her body pulsating with courage. She had an elephantine memory, a maniacal commitment to justice, was obscenely productive, of sharp intelligence and had a unique ability to join the dots. Let’s face it, unless you read her you could not say that you fully grasped what was going on in Malta. Above all, she proved that the pen was mightier than the sword. That’s precisely why someone used the latter to smash the former.
Many failed to sort out her journalistic sins from her acts of sainthood. The consequence is that she had as many avid fans as enemies, fans who overnight become enemies when she decided to attack them - ask many in the PN today - and enemies who became fans when she did the opposite.
Her media colleagues and politicians have a lot to answer for today. There were those who jumped on her bandwagon when her words aided their political mission, caring little about the veracity of what she wrote.
Others did much worse. All those journalists who, when she fearlessly and valiantly started uncovering truths of national importance, failed to follow through because it was she who was doing the uncovering, because of media ego wars and vanity. Some even undermined and discredited her systematically when they knew that she was on to something big.
This is not merely a shame. It partly explains why Daphne is no longer with us today. Blowing up a journalist Mafia-style is easy. Blowing up 20 journalists standing shoulder to shoulder is not. By leaving her standing on her own, her colleagues made the assassin’s job easier. I am not blaming anyone in particular and I know that separating her journalistic sins from the acts of sainthood was an arduous task. But I augur that the media won’t wait for another mortal blow against the soul of this nation before they realise that they are pulling together and that there’s strength in numbers. May the spirit of solidarity that reigns among them at this time of mourning live on forever.
A word on the rule of law. If Joseph Muscat does not deliver on his promise to do everything in his power to see that justice is done, I will be the first to take to the streets. So far he has. At the same time, the rope in the tug of war in the PN will certainly not pull me to the streets.
And finally, a personal note. Daphne and I knew each other for many years. Rather than friends, we shared a common liberal and independent spirit towards life, journalism and politics. Perhaps certain similarities in our character were always in the way of a life-long friendship. We shared the same sense of humour and I will always treasure the moments when I made her laugh and saw her face light up to reveal the warmth that was hidden from most.
Hours before the 2013 election, when it was crystal clear who was going to win, I heard that the police were raiding her house, it was a no brainer for me to go and defend her with my cameras. It was my duty as a journalist. Indeed, I found it odd that no one else showed up.
Sometime later, all the doors to my journalism were closed. Rachel and I ended up without jobs, with a teenage daughter to put through university in London and a child on the way. When I later took on a non-political consultancy job with the government as part of my PR portfolio, Daphne objected. We debated the matter a number of times but we never agreed and, as was typical her, our disagreement spilled over into her blog. As a liberal to the core, I took it all in stride. Until one day she wrote, that I do not love my children. I never spoke to her again.
Today, I only have one regret. That I didn’t forgive her and now I cannot for the rest of my life.