The assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is a wake-up call for civic action, to stop the greed and the rot and to assert the power of the pen over the might of criminals who want us to remain silent as they pile up their profits.
It was nothing short of a declaration of war on our serenity and our freedom to stand up to be counted.
We came together some time ago to create The Shift, thinking that there could not have been a better time for a non-partisan voice with a clear agenda for good governance, one that speaks its truth to power while keeping a distance from economic and partisan agendas. We could never have anticipated that just a few months after we first touched on this idea our country would descend into this nightmare.
Still, there is a silver lining; a civil awakening which saw thousands take to the street to demand justice in two protests organised by the Civil Society Network and the birth of the #occupyjustice movement. It is led by women, and the movement took the protest directly to the nerve centre of power.
We have decided to take the plunge now because we also want to contribute to the civic awakening which followed the brutal elimination of a journalist who spoke her truths to power. We do not seek to step into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s shoes and our style and approach will be different. But we promise to honour the best part of her legacy, that of being a thorn in the side of whoever is in power.
Standing up to be counted has become a matter of urgency.
Our country’s moral fibre is being eroded by an ‘anything goes’ mentality; by a new normal in which being a crook and behaving like one is increasingly seen as the best path to money and power, a phenomenon which is happening across different political parties and across all sectors of public life.
This is a mentality which increasingly overlooks growing social inequality as a collateral of accelerated growth and which readily sacrifices the environment at the altar of greed.
We dread living in a country in which sycophants are rewarded with taxpayers’ money while irreverent voices are shunned as enemies of the nation, as harbingers of disunity and saboteurs of the economy.
Long before Daphne’s assassination we felt that the time had come for civil society to set the country’s agenda. Let’s face it, the opposition is in a shambles and the government is riding roughshod over growing concerns about governance.
Long-standing flaws and cracks in our institutions, unaddressed by previous governments, have been exploited by crooks who enjoy impunity. Lava has been gushing under the surface for decades. The volcano has now erupted. Even our economic prosperity is now in danger as the country is increasingly seen as mafia state. Having lost its moral authority, the state is losing control.
Panamagate should have set all the alarm bells ringing. Instead we had institutional lockdown followed by a surreal election which saw Labour winning by a landslide. Instead of using his powerful mandate to clean up his stables, the Prime Minister immediately proceeded to reappoint the same crooks to positions of power and trust.
No lesson was learnt. It was just back to business as usual. To complicate matters further, the Opposition is in the midst of an identity crisis, with its new leader himself facing allegations of impropriety.
Daphne’s brutal murder is the final wake-up call. Either we accept the new normal or we actively challenge it. The fact that Malta’s economy is growing at a fast rate, as well as the major strides we have made in civil liberties (which we fully endorse), should make our demand for good governance even more urgent. Let’s not throw the baby away with the bath water.
As journalists we believe that investigative stories that hold power to account and astute analysis of what is happening are vital tools for an emerging civil society. Our aim is to put these tools at the disposal of civil society.
The Shift is not simply a new online news portal. It is not our aim to compete with other established media, but to collaborate with them. We do not do reporting, press releases or announcements. The Shift is part of a movement for change.
All three of us in this new venture have a history of civic and political activism as well as a long experience in journalism. At The Shift we will seek to bring together the two facets of our experience to contribute to this civic awakening, in the hope that this dark moment in Malta’s history will herald a Maltese spring in which we can reclaim our daily serenity; that of living in a country in which the institutions serve us all.
That is the shift we believe in. Let’s unite to make it happen.