‘When state in­sti­tu­tions are in­ca­pac­i­tated, the last per­son left stand­ing is of­ten a jour­nal­ist. Which makes her the first per­son left dead.’

Sunday Herald - - PROFILE -

BY RUS­SELL LEADBETTER

THERE are crooks ev­ery­where you look now. The sit­u­a­tion is des­per­ate.” Th­ese were the last words writ­ten by the fear­less Mal­tese in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Daphne Caru­ana Gal­izia on her pop­u­lar blog, Run­ning Com­men­tary, last Mon­day. Just a few min­utes later she left her home and climbed into her rented Peu­geot, and was killed when a pow­er­ful re­mote-con­trolled car bomb ex­ploded.

The killing shocked Malta and the wider world. Caru­ana Gal­izia be­came the tenth jour­nal­ist to be killed for his or her work this year, ac­cord­ing to the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists. Caru­ana Gal­izia, who was 53, also joins a list of dis­tin­guished fe­male in­ves­ti­gate jour­nal­ists – Veron­ica Guerin in Dublin, Anna Politkovskaya in Rus­sia, Gauri Lankesh in In­dia – who got too close to the truth and paid with their lives.

Her near decade-old blog chron­i­cled her fas­tid­i­ous and un­re­lent­ing ef­forts to ex­pose al­leged cor­rup­tion and crony­ism on the part of gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives. Her al­le­ga­tions were aimed at, among oth­ers, Malta’s prime min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat and the coun­try’s en­ergy min­is­ter.

She also worked as­sid­u­ously to shed light on the coun­try’s links to off­shore tax havens us­ing ma­te­rial in the Panama Pa­pers, the sen­sa­tional leak of 11.5 mil­lion doc­u­ments from the data­base of Mos­sack Fon­seca, one of the world’s largest off­shore law firms.

When the leaks re­port­edly showed that some of Mus­cat’s as­so­ci­ates had set up bank ac­counts in Panama, she re­lied on her own knowl­edge, sources and in­tu­ition to find in­for­ma­tion that led her to al­lege that Mus­cat’s wife, Michelle, owned one of th­ese firms. Mal­tese of­fi­cials con­tinue to deny this.

Mus­cat sued Caru­ana Gal­izia ear­lier this year over the al­le­ga­tion and an al­le­ga­tion that funds had been switched be­tween the com­pany and bank ac­counts in Azer­bai­jan. Mus­cat and his wife de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions. He even went to the coun­try, call­ing a snap elec­tion in or­der to win a vote of con­fi­dence to counter the al­le­ga­tions

He has vowed that he will not rest un­til the killers have been tracked down. “She was a very harsh critic of mine, the harsh­est I ever had,” he ac­knowl­edged. Mus­cat said he had been “ex­tremely shocked” by the killing and that it was a “bar­baric at­tack on free­dom of ex­pres­sion that goes against ev­ery sense of de­cency and ci­vil­ity”. Gal­izia’s son, Matthew, who en­dured the har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of wit­ness­ing the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the ex­plo­sion, posted on Face­book on Tues­day: “My mother was as­sas­si­nated be­cause she stood be­tween the rule of law and those who sought to vi­o­late it, like many strong jour­nal­ists. But she was also tar­geted be­cause she was the only per­son do­ing so. This is what hap­pens when the in­sti­tu­tions of the state are in­ca­pac­i­tated: the last per­son left stand­ing is of­ten a jour­nal­ist. Which makes her the first per­son left dead.”

On Thurs­day, Matthew, him­self a Pulitzer prize-win­ning in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist, and his brothers An­drew and Paul, posted an­other mes­sage on his Face­book page: “Af­ter a day of un­re­lent­ing pres­sure from the Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter of Malta for what’s left of our fam­ily to en­dorse a mil­lion-euro re­ward for ev­i­dence lead­ing to the con­vic­tion of our mother’s as­sas­sins, this is what we are com­pelled to say.

“We are not in­ter­ested in jus­tice without change. We are not in­ter­ested in a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion only for the peo­ple in gov­ern­ment who stood to gain from our mother’s mur­der to turn around and say that jus­tice has been served. Jus­tice, be­yond crim­i­nal li­a­bil­ity, will only be served when every­thing that our mother fought for – po­lit­i­cal ac­count­abil­ity, in­tegrity in pub­lic life and an open and free so­ci­ety – re­places the des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion we are in.”

Matthew has also de­scribed the tiny is­land of Malta – pop­u­la­tion just 436,947 (con­sid­er­ably smaller than Glas­gow’s 598,830) – as a “mafia state” run by “crooks”. His mother’s blog is said to have been vis­ited by some 400,000 peo­ple a day.

Gal­izia was born Daphne Anne Vella in Au­gust 1964 in Sliema. She was taught at a prom­i­nent school for girls and at the Je­suit St Aloy­sius Col­lege. Later still came a univer­sity de­gree in ar­chae­ol­ogy. She mar­ried a lawyer, Peter Ca­rauna Gal­izia, in 1985 and two years later turned her hand to jour­nal­ism. She made her name on the Sun­day Times of Malta and, as an as­so­ciate edi­tor, on the Malta In­de­pen­dent.

On the politico.eu web­site this week, Paul Dal­li­son, a col­league of hers at the Malta In­de­pen­dent, wrote: “On her vis­its to the In­de­pen­dent’s of­fice, she cut a rather in­tim­i­dat­ing fig­ure. It was as if a celebrity had walked in. She rarely stopped to speak, in­stead head­ing straight to the edi­tor’s glass of­fice. When her col­umn pinged into our email in­boxes, it reg­u­larly elicited ‘oohs’ and ‘ouches’ as she un­leashed both bar­rels on the tar­get of the day.”

The frus­tra­tions of the con­fines of her twice-weekly col­umn there, he added, led her to launch Run­ning Com­men­tary. There can’t have been a soul in the coun­try who didn’t recog­nise her or have a strong opin­ion of her, he added.

The hunt for Daphne Caru­ana Gal­izia’s bru­tal killers con­tin­ues. In the mean­time, it’s a sober­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to pe­ruse her blog cri­tiques and ex­poses, in which no-one in power was spared. That fi­nal sen­tence – “There are crooks ev­ery­where you look now. The sit­u­a­tion is des­per­ate” – is par­tic­u­larly hard to read in the light of her bru­tal death.

Pho­tographs: STR/AFP/Getty Im­ages, Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/ Getty Im­ages

Main im­age, po­lice in­spect the wreck­age of Daphne Caru­ana Gal­izia’s car. Top right, women light can­dles dur­ing a can­dle­light vigil in Sliema and, above, Caru­ana Gal­izia pho­tographed in Malta in April

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