The EU cannot be a dangerous place for those who guarantee correct information to our citizens, former European Parliament president Antonio Tajani said in a video message aired to a huge crowd of protestors that filled Valletta’s Republic Street on Wednesday evening, but the world lost a piece of press freedom when Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated.
The journalist was assassinated on 16 October 2017 when a bomb placed beneath the driver’s seat of her car was detonated as she drove out of Bidnija just before 3pm.
Tajani asked how Europeans could call on third countries to guarantee freedom of expression, “if we are not able to defend it in our Member States?” Everywhere in Europe, journalists are fighting every day for truth and justice and, like Daphne, “they are the sentinels of our society and our freedom”.
“In 30 years of career and over 20,000 articles, Daphne has best interpreted the essence of our profession: the search for truth”. How can we remain inert before such a cowardly attack on the free press? “We want to know who decided the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia,” he said.
Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando took to the stage and pointed out that change was possible. “Daphne’s killers will pay,” he said. “You have already won…this crowd here is a sign of it. Palermo was the capital of the mafia but we are proof that things can change.”
Daphne’s niece, Amy Mallia, drew strong reactions from the crowd when she described what her family has endured over the past two years. It has been “a blur of vigils, meetings, protests, news reports, articles dripping with hate and false accusations against my family, being verbally abused in the street, being told – at school – that it would have been better if someone had placed a bomb under my seat, too.”
“What my family goes through on a daily basis should not be normal,” she said, “but then again Malta is not a normal country right now.”
Don Luigi Ciotti, founder and leader of Libera dalle Mafie, said Caruana Galizia believed that information was one of the pillars of democracy and the foundation of a free and responsible society where truth and justice were safeguarded. It was not enough just to remember her. It was important to make a personal and collective commitment to work for a more just and humane world. “She died for an ideal of justice that we all need to make come true,” he said.
Former MEP Ana Gomes, a vocal advocate of justice for Daphne, was blunt in her criticism of the government’s behaviour. Gomes said that she was a socialist and proud of it, but this also means having values. “I couldn’t believe the Labour Party that calls itself socialist was doing these things,” she said, referring to Minister Konrad Mizzi and Chief of Staff Keith Schembri’s exposure in the Panama Papers investigation.
“I knew from the moment I met Joseph Muscat and his minions that there would be obstruction of justice,” she said. “They continue to try to make people live in fear rather than delivering justice”.
Vicki Ann Cremona, president of activist group Repubblika, told the crowd that Caruana Galizia was someone who had the courage to bring the dirt in Malta into the open, forcing everyone to face reality and see what they were living in. “We all need to stand up,” she said, “even if we are shaking with fear, as this dirt needs to be cleaned out”.
People who were immersed to their chins in this dirt tried to silence Caruana Galizia with numerous libel suits – some of which were quickly closed after her death. Others are still ongoing in an attempt to make her family deny what she fought for. She said that Daphne’s fight has become a European fight, and this cry for truth and justice must become louder.
Her call to action was also echoed by Martina Farrugia of Occupy Justice, who said Daphne’s death was a clear threat to all those who were ready to reveal the truth.
Earlier, a silent gathering was held in Bidnija at 3pm, on the spot where Daphne was killed. A 6pm mass was then celebrated in her memory at St Francis Conventual Church in Valletta by Archbishop’s delegate Fr David Cilia and Don Luigi Ciotti.
— RSF (@RSF_inter) October 16, 2019
Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire called on the government to stop removing tributes left by citizens at the protest memorial in Valletta, and said the Maltese government needed to implement an ambitious programme for press freedom in the country.
International organisations including the International Federation of Journalists, PEN International, Reporters Without Borders and Transparency International also organised vigils to call for justice in Vienna, London, Brussels and Berlin.
United Nations Special Rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and David Kaye appealed to the Maltese authorities to do more to find the masterminds as their top political priority, saying too little had been done to fully investigate the killing. “Two years have passed,” the said. “No convictions, no trials of ringleaders and masterminds.”
A joint call went out to Malta on Wednesday from @UN_SPExperts @AgnesCallamard, @davidakaye and other human rights monitors, for justice in the case of #DaphneCaruanaGalizia, murdered 2 years ago. Story here: https://t.co/YXjFXUkF0E
— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) October 16, 2019
Tributes and calls for justice came in from all over the world, praising Daphne Caruana Galizia’s courage, work, writing and life.
The new President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, also issued a statement saying that the European Parliament “must be the guardian of the values of Daphne Caruana Galizia”.
Twelve media freedom organisations including Reporters Without Borders, ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, various PENs and the International Press Institute, released a joint statement demanding an end to the impunity around the attack. In their letter, they note how “the Maltese authorities have failed to address any of the serious concerns” or to implement recommendations to ensure justice for Caruana Galizia.
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir again paid tribute to Caruana Galizia on social media . “Daphne was a courageous and dedicated journalist who has become a symbol for all investigative journalists who are threatened because of their work. We owe it to her, her family and the entire Maltese society to uncover all the facts and circumstances into her death.”
Earlier this week, Désir joined a press conference in Malta for the launch of a report titled ‘Justice Delayed: The Assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Malta’s Deteriorating Press Freedom Climate’ compiled by Reporters Without Borders and The Shift, with support from the Justice for Journalists Foundation.
The report lays out the circumstances that led to Caruana Galizia’s assassination and gives a clear timeline of the events that happened in the days, weeks and months that followed, including the action – or lack of it – taken in the investigation.