Daphne’s mur­der - one year on

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

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.

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