Hate speech and sexist language targeting women journalists were the focus of a two-day conference organised by Women Mediterranean Journalists in Bari, Italy, dedicated to slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The conference was attended by around 150 Italian journalists and students, as well as journalists from Tunisia, Kosovo and Turkey. #veritaperDaphne was a hashtag created by the Italian conference, where journalists vowed to keep pressing for the truth to emerge on her assassination.
The Shift News journalist Caroline Muscat and columnist Petra Caruana Dingli spoke about Caruana Galizia’s life and work; the media situation in Malta and her contribution to independent journalism and freedom of speech until her assassination on 16 October.
Caruana Dingli outlined the journalist’s work and her influence. The attacks that she faced over the years and Caruana Galizia’s dehumanisation. “The attempt to turn Daphne into an object of hate in the mainstream media and the political press helped to lay the ground for her to become the target of a violent attack,” she said.
Muscat then spoke about the way forward. “Daphne’s assassination has shocked Malta. This kind of attack on a journalist is unprecedented in the country. More than a month has passed since her death, and the police remain silent on the progress of investigations”.
Her speech explored the civil society movement that emerged after Caruana Galizia’s assassination – the protests, the birth of new movements led by women, and the continued harassment of individuals calling for change.
She gave examples of the hate speech against activists demanding justice – such as Tony Zarb’s description of #occupyjustice activists as prostitutes – and the attacks on Nationalist Party MEP Roberta Metsola.
“The targeting of critical voices did not die with Caruana Galizia. Civil society continues to demand political reform. The situation in the country has caught the attention of the European Parliament in a strong vote last week for a close look at the rule of law in Malta. While that was happening, Malta’s Prime Minister was busy selling Maltese passports abroad. But it can no longer be business-as-usual,” Muscat said.
Italian journalist Marilu’ Mastrogiovanni, one of the organisers of the conference, spoke of the importance of journalists and citizens protecting each other. She stressed the need for solidarity and support among journalists in different countries.
“We are here to provide a service to civil society. The minute one of us is threatened or killed, the rights of citizens die with them. If we all, together, take up the investigations Daphne was following, the same won’t happen. We must protect each other. We must ensure Daphne lives on,” Mastrogiovanni said.
She is not a novice in investigative journalism. She, herself, had police escorts for her investigations into the mafia. The conference heard the personal stories of other Italian journalists who have been fighting the mafia in Italy for years.
Women journalists face the same challenges and threats that others in the profession do. “But when it comes to women, the sexist language and the hate speech takes on a new twist. This is a story that crosses borders and we must work together,” she said.
Italian journalist organisation FNSI Giulia Ordine dei Giornalisti held a protest outside the Italian Parliament in Rome ti call for justice for Caruana Galizia.
The book on the life and work of Caruana Galizia, Invicta, was also promoted at the conference. Pre-orders for the book are being accepted until the end of the month. Send an email to [email protected].