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Breaking their rules – Megan Mallia

Daphne Caruana Galizia with her nieces Amy and Megan Mallia.

Guest commentary by Megan Mallia, niece of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Bold. If there is one word that describes my aunt Daphne, it would be that.

Daphne was bold in everything she said and did because she lived by her morals, values and beliefs even when it seemed far easier to put those things aside. She broke the rules of undemocratic authority and injustice, but also of trends and ubiquitous fashions. Doing so made her stand apart from those who preferred to follow the herd.

When all-white minimalism was the trend, Daphne strode against the current. In the second issue of her then newly-launched Flair magazine, she called the harsh, clinical style of home decoration the ‘Hannibal Lecter lives here’ look. Her home was different; it was like a palimpsest, or a work of decoupage, where pieces are collected over time from all over the place and layered together to form something beautiful and unique. Her belief was that ‘rooms are made for people, not robots’, and therefore should reflect the characters of their inhabitants.

Daphne was also one of the only people I knew who took a great pleasure in books. When I was around 11 years old and becoming more frugal with my pocket money, I confided in her how I felt guilty about spending money on books so often. I was used to seeing children at school holding back on book buying, preferring to borrow them instead.

‘You shouldn’t feel like that,’ she said. ‘Books are the exception.’

And she was right. In books there is the possibility of exploration or time travel. Reading can be an escape, or an act of dissent, because as we know, words have power.

Daphne’s pastimes were such a part of her personality. One of the things she liked to do was keep boxes of beads from jewellery she no longer wore, and create new pieces when she made the time to do so. In more ways than one, she connected the threads. In the garden, she grew saplings in milk cartons with the intention of eventually planting them. She dug up the dirt, bringing the weeds to the surface.

She somehow made time for everything and everyone in her life, even when her investigative work needed so much time in itself. Multitasking was a forte of hers that I used to marvel at. One evening at my grandparents’ (her parents’) house, she was sitting in an armchair typing away at her laptop. The television was on, and my grandmother was talking to us collectively. Daphne joined the conversation seamlessly while simultaneously writing. We then found out that the deadline for her column was the next morning.

Daphne was human. Never forget that. She loved the smell of fresh flowers, and the sound of bird chatter; she loved to laugh heartily with friends and family over everyday anecdotes and memories. The difference between her and most of us is that she had morals she never let fall.

True boldness is living every day of your life by your values and morals. Daphne did this. She stood up to politicians and reminded them that their job was to serve us, and not to abuse their position. ‘Know your rights, know your civil liberties … and never give in to authority just because it is authority.’

I live by those words. It takes courage to stick to your principles when you are made out to be the ‘bad guy’ for defying the actual ‘bad guys’ – it really does. But I can tell you that when you do take that courage, when you stand proud and tall, act with dignity, and defy the bullies, you feel as if you are doing a whole lot of good, because, indeed, you are.

Fighting wrongdoing and persevering even in the face of harassment sends a clear message: no, I will not give in; yes, I believe we deserve better.

This is my message to all, but especially students and the various student organisations and student media outlets:

Our voices have power.

Challenge the apparent absence of the rule of law.

Demand accountability.

Don’t shake hands with crooked and corrupt politicians or with those who represent them, because that handshake is an acknowledgement of what they represent and of all that they stand for, including the obstruction of justice, the harassment and intimidation of journalists and the oppression of the free press.

Don’t accept sponsorships from companies with crooked or dubious connections, no matter how attractive their offers may seem. Your silence should not be bought.

Don’t let your organisation’s rules stipulate that executive board members are forbidden to discuss, online or elsewhere, subjects like the rule of law and the assassination of a journalist.

Do join the fight for justice for Daphne and for her stories, because these things affect every part of our lives.

Student media organisations, please rethink your values. It is your duty to stand up to authority. We deserve better, and so do you.

I am most proud of Daphne because, until the very last second of her life, she lived by her morals. Will you?

People will gather at 7pm today close to the parliament building and march to the law courts were speakers will address the crowd to mark two years since Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated. Speakers include former European Parliament president Antonio Tajani, former MEP Ana Gomes, Reporters Without Borders UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent, and Vicki Ann Cremona, president of Repubblika.

Pieter Omtzigt

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