Citizens correct government’s dismissal of slain journalist on Women’s Day

Civil society organisations Occupy Justice and Repubblika added Daphne Caruana Galizia’s name to the exhibition at the entrance to Valletta to mark Women’s Day, after the government failed to recognise her contribution to Maltese society.

A banner was set up with the words ‘Invicta’ and the journalist’s photo at the exhibition to point out the government’s double standards.

“On Women’s Day, we remember Daphne Caruana Galizia who was assassinated because of her work as an investigative journalist exposing government corruption. She got excluded from this exhibition that is meant to promote equality. If any woman deserved being among this group of women, it is Daphne,” Louiselle Vassallo said.

Her exclusion was an injustice in itself and an insult to her family. “How is it possible that those who organised this exhibition did not keep in mind Daphne’s husband and children, her mother, her sisters and nieces.”

The way she was treated by those in power she exposed linked to corruption and criminality was far worse because she was a woman who stood up to patriarchy and never held back from taking a stand, the organisations said.

“Daphne Caruana Galizia was, and remains, an example as an individual who fought for her rights and the rights of others,” Vassallo said.

The government’s exhibition of 12 women prioritised past and present Labour Party politicians as the women who deserve recognition, including European Commissioner Helena Dalli, former President Agatha Barbara, Labour Party activist and former politician Claudette Abela Baldacchino, Labour MEP Miriam Dalli (with her counterpart from the Opposition also absent).

The initiative was launched and promoted by Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar who had defended her Party’s continued attacks on Caruana Galizia after her death as “freedom of expression”.

“We believe that when women unite they are stronger,” she said against a backdrop that excluded women achievers who stood up to government leading to the resignation of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat – an administration she ardently supported to make her name in politics.

“These are the women we believe will serve as role models for others,” she added in a promotional video, making it clear where the government’s priorities lie.

Caruana Galizia, a journalist brutally assassinated in a car bomb on this government’s watch, was conspicuous by her absence in the exhibition, even as revelations link the mastermind to the highest corridors of power.

Her revelations on corruption brought down Muscat’s administration – one supported by those Labour politicians featured, which caused strong reactions from civil society on social media.

‘Invicta’ was the title of a book launched within weeks of her assassination recognising her contribution to Maltese society and journalism. As editor Joseph Anthony Debono said in The Times of Malta last week:

“In the face of universal hatred and vili­fication, of utter defeat, of the growing threat of that awful death, she never flinched… Therein lies the reason: INVICTA”.

Reactions to the exhibition on social media referred to European Commissioner Helena Dalli’s reference to Caruana Galizia’s assassination as “femicide” during her grilling for the Brussels post. Dalli never recognised her government’s responsibility in the journalist’s death and attempted to dismiss it as gender-based violence rather than the silencing of a government critic.

Social media comments also picked on Agatha Barbara, Malta’s first female president who occupied the highest position in the country at a time when her silence condoned some of the worst human rights abuses by the Labour Party in recent political history.

Caruana Galizia has received more international awards for her work than can be listed. But her contribution was discredited and she was dehumanised in a consistent campaign over decades run by the Party in government, evidence from the public inquiry shows.

Prime Minister Robert Abela’s “orders” not to remove the tributes to the journalist from the protest memorial in Valletta was meant to signal a change in approach. Yet, the government’s clearing of the memorial was ruled as a breach of human rights perpetrated by then Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, who now serves as Education Minister.

Caruana Galizia’s exclusion from the exhibition recognising women’s contribution to society was seen as confirmation that nothing has changed. “Daphne never let the fact that she was a woman hold her back from speaking against injustice. On the contrary, she made it clear she could not remain silent and recognised other women in difficult situations. That’s why Dar Merħba Bik (for victims of domestic violence) was so close to her heart,” the organisaitons said.

The real ‘Invicta’, her principles unconquered, should be remembered on Women’s Day. “This is the real testimony of those who should be remembered on Women’s Day. She will not be forgotten, not in Malta and not internationally.”

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