Daphne’s murder - one year on
Almost a year has passed since the country was stunned by the barbaric murder of one of Malta’s most prolific journalists.
Just under one year ago, on a slow Monday afternoon, the news that Daphne Caruana Galizia had been blown up in her car in Bidnija spread like wildfire. We at Standard Publications were particularly shocked because for us, Daphne was not just another blogger and journalist, but also a colleague.
Daphne wrote for The Malta Independent twice a week – on Thursdays and Sundays – and she was one of our most popular columnists.
Her often aggressive and unforgiving style of writing – mostly against government officials but later also against the PN leader and those close to him – earned her a reputation for being someone not to be trifled with. She often launched personal attacks – something we never agreed with – but she was also respected because, as a journalist, she dared to go where others did not.
On the day of her murder, the Opposition was very quick to claim that this was a political murder – that it was the direct result of Daphne exposing government corruption.
On the other side, government sources started pushing the idea that the murder was related to the fuel-smuggling trade. The government was quick to pronounce victory when three men were arrested and later charged with the murder.
The ongoing court case is revealing, in excruciating detail, how they allegedly planned and carried out the murder. But we still do not know who ordered or paid them to commit the crime: the mastermind.
Whilst it is unlikely that a politician ordered the murder, conspiracy theories will keep coming, because the authorities have never been particularly willing to explore the political angle and the politicians who were named in connection with the case have also proved reluctant to sit down and be questioned in a bid to clear their names.
Chris Cardona, for example, is said to have been in the presence of at least one of the alleged killers on more than one occasion. While denouncing the reports as a “smear campaign”, Cardona has failed to issue a clear denial. He has also failed to suspend himself from Cabinet duties and submit himself to an inquiry.
It seems that the Prime Minister is also not entertaining the thought of such a course of action. As in the case of the Panama Papers, a lack of action on the part of the government will only serve to further fuel speculation.
Today, this newspaper is reporting that the alleged call between Cardona and a ship-owner who was named in connection with fuel smuggling did not take place. But there is still no explanation for the times when the Minister was in the same location as Alfred Degiorgio. Only by submitting himself to investigation can the Minister truly clear his name.
The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has placed Malta under a huge international spotlight, with the country often labelled– as a ‘mafia state’ where corruption reigns supreme and where the rule of law does not exist.
The government has rushed to defend Malta’s reputation, but the myriad of scandals that have rocked this administration, and the way they have been handled by the government – along with the current Police Commissioner’s refusal to investigate politicians – does very little to convince people that all is well in the state of Malta.
The murder has naturally also had a profound effect on Maltese society. One can safely say that the country has become even more polarised and intolerant after Daphne’s murder and the ongoing saga about the memorial in Valletta is a clear case in point. The constant destruction and reinstatement of the makeshift shrine at the foot of the Great Siege monument shows how alien the concept of freedom of expression still is in this country. It shows that, for some people, sympathy towards a murdered person has a short expiry date.
Her legacy, on the other hand, will not die out anytime soon. The effects of her stories will be felt for many years to come. Over the past few months we have seen the country torn apart again over the conclusions of the Egrant inquiry and the infamous FKK Acapulco case.
Daphne was vindicated when the Minister for the Economy decided to drop his brothel libel case just as the court was about to see his mobile phone positioning data, which would have proved beyond any doubt whether or not he had visited the sex club.
But her credibility received a huge dent when the Egrant claims – probably the wildest and boldest she had ever made – were disproved. Even here, many refuse to accept the conclusions of the report, insisting that the inquiry was flawed and that the magistrate had very limited terms of reference.
There is also the fact that we still do not who the real owner is.
The subject of the Panamanian offshore company brought the House down again this week, with toxic scenes that were reminiscent of the 1980s. What we witnessed in the chamber this week showed us that this country’s wounds are far from healed – in fact they might actually be getting deeper.
There is so much we need to learn and do. Our politicians must realise that people follow the example they set and, because of this, they need to start acting in a civilised manner.
Politicians with the remotest of links to people allegedly involved in Daphne’s murder must do everything in their power to clear their names: denials alone will not work.
The investigation into the murder must pick up pace again in order that those who carried out the crime, along with those who masterminded the whole thing, are brought to justice.
And we must make sure that freedom of expression is truly respected, not just now – as the country marks the first year since the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia – but on every day of every year.