The need for people to stand up to corruption, to call out right from wrong, was the main message delivered by speakers at the vigil in Valletta marking 18 months since journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated on 16 October, 2017.
The weakening of the institutions that are meant to protect democracy and the retaliation against those who speak out were contributing to people’s silence. On the face of it, the government allowed people to gather, only to wipe away the flowers and candles the next day; it defended freedom of expression, for those who were loyal. Yet those who did speak up faced retaliation.
They all referred to Caruana Galizia’s courage, for being unrelenting in exposing a corrupt system that eventually got her killed, “so the corrupt can make more money” Prof. Mary Anne Lauri said.
Tributes also poured in from international press freedom organisations, including Reporters Without Borders and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.
Journalist #DaphneCaruanaGalizia was assassinated 18 months ago today, and still we are no closer to justice. We call yet again for the immediate launch of a public inquiry to determine whether her life could have been saved and how to protect journalists still working in #Malta. pic.twitter.com/YfbV58wAS8
— RSF in English (@RSF_en) April 16, 2019
Lauri said she had been teaching for 40 years, and felt she had failed to instill critical thinking in students. She stressed the job of educators was to teach students “not to be sheep”; to raise their voice and take a stand against injustice. Questions on who wanted Caruana Galizia silenced, and why, must be answered, she said. It was up to the people to make that demand.
Martina Farrugia also made her point clear: “If your livelihood and income is dependent on your submission to and your silence in the face of government corruption and the murder of one of us, then let’s face it. This is tyranny”.
Saying it was “time to be brave”, Farrugia said that corrupt behaviour had to be denounced.
“There is no room for positivity here. It is not the Opposition’s or the media’s job to be positive and look on the bright side of life. No matter how much Mrs (Michelle) Muscat insists on it,” she said, referring to the Prime Minister’s wife missive for journalists to consult the government and be positive.
Farrugia also referred to The Shift News’ investigation into Labour’s secret online hate groups and their co-ordinated attacks on government critics – the same groups that celebrated the journalist’s death. “Despite the government’s greatest critic being murdered months before, various members of government remain, to this day, members of this group. Having learnt, exactly nothing from her assassination”.
She said no responsibility had been carried for Caruana Galizia’s murder. “Our Prime Minister has yet to recognise the role that he and this government played in her death”.
Eve Borg Costanzi revealed a letter she had written to Caruana Galizia after her assassination, which exposed the pain many others expressed after she was killed. “I should have helped before. I should have stood up to the bullies earlier. I should not have counted on you to fight our battles alone. I am so very sorry for being so selfish. I realise that my and others’ selfishness cost you your life. This is the hardest thing I have had to come to terms with,” she said.
She expressed her anger at her peers who were not equally incensed. “Do they not understand what has happened and what is going on? Or worse, has Daphne’s assassination been successful in its intent? And scared them all into silence?”
Manuel Delia, one of the organisers of the event, listed the cases filed in court: A request to the Courts to protect freedom of expression following Justice Minister Owen Bonnici’s repeated removal of flowers and candles at the protest memorial, a request for a magisterial inquiry on Panama Papers, and another to stop new appointments to the judiciary until the Venice Commission’s recommendations were implemented.
“We used to say that the Courts were the last bastion of democracy. Then, 18 months ago, the Chief Justice at the time – Silvio Camilleri – told us not to expect miracles. The judiciary can only decide on cases brought before the Court… that is why we are on the Court’s doorstep, putting these questions before them”.
Saying that the expectation was these cases would be lost, despite the validity of the argument, Delia stressed that Caruana Galizia had warned of the weakening of institutions and the impunity that was widespread, but she had never stopped fighting.