A year ago the murder of an investigative journalist in the heart of the EU was unthinkable, but in the 12 months that followed violence against journalists reporting on corruption has spread across the region, mirroring a worldwide trend of the free press being attacked with impunity, author and social activist Naomi Klein said as she laid flowers at the square in Valletta barricaded by the government to deny public access to the site where citizens have paid tribute to the slain journalist.
Klein is a progressive / socialist hailing from the same ideology from which the Labour Party gets its name. But she issued a scathing criticism of the government’s actions, saying she had never witnessed this kind of behaviour towards a murdered journalist in any other country.
“Today, I placed flowers and a candle at the boarded up protest memorial before the law courts… Will the flowers be there tomorrow? The protest memorial has been destroyed – on the orders of the Justice Minister himself – countless times and has now been completely cordoned off, blocking all protesters who wish to join the call for justice,” she said.
Klein has been a consistent critic of corporate globalisation and of capitalism and yet finds little in common with Malta’s Labour government: “The authorities seem determined to try to eradicate her memory. I have never witnessed this behaviour towards a murdered journalist in any other country”.
“As a female investigative journalist, I, like Daphne, have faced intimidation, threats and harassment for my work in exposing corruption. I have witnessed what happens in countries where my colleagues have been murdered for their work and where there has been no justice for their killings. This impunity drives a cycle of violence,” she said.
An attack on a journalist is an attack on democratic society itself
“I know firsthand that an attack on a journalist is an attack on democratic society itself – killing society’s right to be informed and hold the powerful to account. And I also know that impunity emboldens the corrupt, it engenders fear and insecurity, and ultimately it silences the critical voices that are essential to constructing fair, just and safe societies,” she added.
Klein said it was also of concern that high level officials within the government continue to engage in the vilification of a murdered journalist even after her violent death: “Such rhetoric from those in high office fans the flames of hate and encourages a climate of violence towards the media”.
She pointed out that prominent subjects of Caruana Galizia’s reporting, who may bear responsibility for her death, have not been placed under formal investigation or questioned. She said the apparent lack of progress in the investigation into Caruana Galizia’s murder was truly disturbing.
“I’m coming to you straight from Trump’s America where he calls women ‘stupid’, where journalists are the enemy of the people… where people learn to distrust the concept of truth itself, which translates into impunity and violence,” she said.
Klein endorsed PEN International’s call for the Maltese authorities to immediately launch a public inquiry to establish whether Caruana Galizia’s life could have been saved, and, crucially, how to protect other journalists and freedom of expression in Malta.
PEN International stressed that the public inquiry should have comprehensive and transparent terms of reference; ensure meaningful involvement of the deceased’s family; ensure the protection of sources and include public hearings.
The public inquiry can be established under Malta’s Inquiries Act and must be completely independent of the Malta police, government and politicians, conducted by a panel of respected international judges and jurists with no political or government links.
The Shift News will publish an exclusive interview with Naomi Klein on Sunday.