The assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia was a hit on democracy, free speech and rule of law and it was intended to attack all those who believed in these principles, former BBC journalist John Sweeney told The Shift.
The people who killed her and those who paid for her murder were out to kill these principles and attack “all of us” and it had a horrible effect on what journalism was all about – honest news and bringing out the truth, Sweeney said.
The former BBC investigative journalist had dubbed Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as the “artful dodger of Europe” after interviewing him soon after Caruana Galizia’s death. Together with investigative journalist Carlo Bonini, from La Repubblica, and Manuel Delia, Sweeney will be launching a book titled Murder on the Malta Express: Who Killed Daphne Caruana Galizia? on 14 October.
Sweeney said Caruana Galizia’s murder had the same effect on press freedom and rule of law as the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was brutally killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, one year ago.
He described it as “shocking” especially in light of what her writings had exposed in terms of “the depth of the corruption scandals and the impunity for wrongdoings”.
He had nothing but words of praise for her writing, comparing Caruana Galizia’s style to that of a “rocket launcher”.
“She was amazing. I am in awe of her courage and ability to step up. She was a really smart woman,” Sweeney said.
Her style also had an element of dark humour with “occasional funny moments” such as when she requested the location of the mobile data of Economy Minister Chris Cardona to prove her claims that he was in a brothel in Germany. When she did that he dropped the libel suits he had filed against her, Sweeney said.
Caruana Galizia’s death left a “horribly divided society” where people would call her a witch and attack those who left flowers at the protest memorial in her name in Valletta.
“Stop it,” Sweeney said.
Even though some may disagree with what she wrote, it was wrong to desecrate and disrespect tributes to her, he insisted.
One common myth was that she had wished that the children of the prime minister would fall sick with cancer. “That is a lie; it didn’t happen but people believe she did and that is just crazy.”
He expressed concern at the lack of space for discussion in Malta, where speaking out meant that you were “immediately attacked”.
“This is not only limited to Malta and it is very depressing. It’s not right,” Sweeney said.
Turning to the investigation, Sweeney said there was an obvious lack of progress in the trial of the three men charged with carrying out her assassination. “There is no progress on who paid them to do it and this is a huge and important question to ask.”
The way the Maltese government was acting was not as an “honest party”. It seemed like the action the government was taking was serving to cover up the deed. “That’s not good enough.”
The book will be launched as part of a series of events to mark the two-year anniversary of her death on Monday at 6pm at the Catholic Institute in Floriana.