Thousands commemorate Daphne Caruana Galizia, 5 years since her assassination

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola told the crowd, the government continues to 'hide information, discriminate how its advertising is dispersed, denies interviews to the independent media and permits its people to harass journalists on social media'


Malta, Europe and much of the world on Sunday today marked the fifth year since the assassination of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was murdered by car bomb on 16 October 2017 just a couple hundred metres from her family home in Bidnija.

People gathered in Valletta on Sunday evening to pay their respects to the slain journalist, whose murder five years ago to the day brought down a government, lead to the creation of civil society groups demanding accountability, good governance and political change, and which forever changed the face of Malta.

Just two days before Sunday’s tragic milestone, two brothers – hit men Alfred and George Degiorgio – shocked the court and the nation by suddenly, and practically unprecedentedly, changing their ‘not guilty’ pleas to ‘guilty’ once they heard the strength of the prosecution’s case. They were promptly sentenced to 40-year prison terms.

Justice five years on and counting

The assassination’s alleged mastermind – hotelier and casino boss Yorgen Fenech – remains in pre-trial detention after having been arrested in November 2019 while trying to abscond from Malta on his yacht when he learned he was to be arrested.

Vincent Muscat, who acted as a spotter for the Degiorgios, was given a reduced 15-year sentence in a plea bargain deal that saw him turn State’s witness. The self-confessed middleman between Fenech and the Degiorgios, Melvin Theuma, had been pardoned for a number of crimes in return for his testimony against the perpetrators.

Robert Agius, aka Ta’ Maksar, and Jamie Vella also stand accused of having provided the bomb that took Caruana Galizia’s life. They are both claiming innocence and also remain in pre-trial custody.

It has also taken five full years for the government to come up with new legislation on protecting the press in the wake of the assassination, which turned out to have been a half-baked exercise the government attempted to rush through parliament as a fait accompli.

Earlier in the afternoon, hundreds of people gathered with Caruana Galizia family members at the murder site in Bidnija for a commemoration, amongst who were European Parliament President Roberta Metsola and anti-mafia activist Maria Falcone, as well as former Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil and MEP David Casa.

Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Charles Scicluna earlier in the morning at the Bidnija chapel.

Sunday’s demonstration

Sunday’s demonstration for justice began at 6.30pm in front of Parliament and made its way to the Law Courts, where a vigil at the memorial to Caruana Galizia was held.

It was addressed by: European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, Repubblika President Robert Aquilina, sister of assassinated Italian anti-mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone – Maria Falcone, and Caoilfhionn Gallagher – barrister at human rights and civil liberties specialists Doughty Street Chambers, which was instrumental in the fight for justice for Caruana Galizia.

Luca Perrino, co-founder and President of the Associazione Culturale Leali delle Notizie di Ronchi dei Legionari, also addressed the crowd together with Head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) EU and Balkans Desk Pavol Szalai, The Guardian and Observer investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr, Occupy Justice activist Louiselle Vassallo and activist and blogger Manuel Delia.

In her speech, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola accused the government of still not respecting the work of journalists five years after Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

The government, she said, continues to “hide information, discriminate how its advertising is dispersed, denies interviews to the independent media and permits its people to harass journalists on social media”.

Heaping praise on Caruana Galizia for always doing her duty and doing the right thing, Metsola called on the government to adopt Daphne’s values of transparency and justice.

Caruana Galizia, Metsola said, was a “woman of steel” in her fight against corruption “with just a laptop”.

Roberta Metsola. Photos: Michael Kaden

Following Caruana Galizia’s death, there was an “earthquake”, Metsola said, that shook the country and Europe: “When they killed her she was not left alone. When they assassinated her, her voice was not silenced, but it became louder. Daphne is alive today in each and every one of us. Today we are Daphne’s voice.”

Speaking about Friday’s surprise guilty plea from Caruana Galizia’s hit men, RSF’s Pavol Szalai said, “When we came out of the courtroom, we felt hope. Tangible hope that justice for the assassination of a journalist can be delivered. We still need full justice to be served – for the family, for Maltese journalists, and for the country. Malta needs this for its own healing.

“Today, all eyes are on Malta. Can it condemn the mastermind? Will it be able to hold accountable all those who are guilty of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia?

“It will also depend on us, each and every one of us.”

Pavol Szalai

Turning to the thorny issue of the government’s draft press laws, he observed how ”A public inquiry was conducted. Yet the most important recommendations have remained on paper. Bills have been tabled. But there has not been a genuine public consultation.Instead of transparency, there has been more opacity.”

The media that fight for the right to freedom of information in the public interest, he said, “are swamped with lawsuits“.

“Instead of an ambitious policy, we witness petty politics. Maltese politicians were supposed to learn a lesson, yet they adhered to a system that allowed the worst to happen.

“We expect the government to act in the public interest, but it does so only under pressure. Even the EU has adopted new measures and proposed new legislation drawing a lesson from the case of Daphne. But in Malta, too little, too late has been done a full five years later.”

On the continued fight for justice for Caruana Galizia, Szalai cited Daphne’s last recorded interview, when asked about why she continues working as a journalist despite all the threats, she remarked, ‘I really hate to give up’.

“And we won’t either,” he pledged.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola (left, standing) and Daphne Caruana Galizia’s parents, Rose and Michael Vella (seated)

Repubblika President Robert Aquilina likewise promised, “We will keep fighting by all means necessary to keep Daphne alive by ensuring justice is served for the corruption she revealed and for which she was killed.”

He said new sources had come forward with still more evidence of dereliction of duty on the parts of Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà, Deputy Police Commissioner Alexandra Mamo and Attorney General Victoria Buttigieg, who were letting “millionaire criminals roam around continuing to disrupt the country”.

“We will never tire of saying that Daphne was killed because of corruption, the corruption created in Castille, the corruption that took place under the watch and with the complicity of Joseph Muscat.

Robert Aquilina

“Five years since Daphne was killed, the country is still dominated by a corrupt system and people who want to obstruct the course of justice.”

“We need to find the necessary courage to fight to the end until justice is served and we see that the institutions of our country are being run with integrity.”

Caoilfhionn Gallagher, barrister Doughty Street Chambers, speaking in London on Sunday, noted how “While the climate of impunity festered in Malta, the world stood idly by. The UK and other countries across Europe ignored what was happening under their noses and left Daphne to her fate.

“Today, 16 October, is also the anniversary of Desmond Tutu being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1984. He once said, ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.’

Caoilfhionn Gallagher

“Daphne was the mouse. Malta was the elephant. The world chose then to stay silent. To be neutral. In the decades leading up to her assassination, the world failed to act to protect her or hold Malta to account. They failed to act in 2017.

“Five years on, it is long past time for other States who claim to believe in the importance of freedom of expression – including the UK, and every single country which has signed up to the Media Freedom Coalition – to act. They failed Daphne then.

“Now, they must hold Malta to account and ensure the change Daphne’s family and Malta need and deserve comes to pass.”

Occupy Justice activist Louiselle Vassallo said: “A journalist was assassinated. And this is because the institutions have turned a blind eye and chose not only to ignore but justify and defend the evil that was being exposed and which Daphne Caruana Galizia was warning us about.”

Louiselle Vassallo

She invited the Prime Minister to place a candle and a lay bouquet of flowers at the protest site, and on-camera, “give us another sound bite where you condemn anyone who vilified Daphne Caruana Galizia, either in life or after she was assassinated.

“After that, tell your driver to take you to the party station you lead and, once there, order an end once and for all to the fascist, perverse and personal attacks on activists and honest citizens.”

“This is a very dangerous time for those who want our country to start to heal,” said activist and blogger Manuel Delia. “How do we know we are healed?

“The first mistake would be to listen to Robert Abela.  This morning he said he had learned from Daphne’s murder and drafted new laws supposed to protect journalists. “But if those laws prove anything, it is that Robert Abela still hasn’t learned anything from Daphne’s murder.

“Five years have passed since she was killed and once the initial shock and anger pass, the motivation comes. There are those who say there is a lot of apathy out there, or that the Maltese suffer from indifference.

“I don’t agree. What we have is omertà: complicity in silence and whoever tries to break that omertà will get what’s coming to them.”

“The lives of Giovanni Falcone, Paolo Borsellino and Daphne Caruana Galizia have been full, rich and courageous,” said Maria Falcone, activist and sister of slain anti-mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone.

Observing how this year marks the 30th since the Italian mafia massacres, she urged for new, EU-wide anti-mafia legislation to deal with the confiscation of mafia assets.

Maria Falcone

“To remember Daphne, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, we must start from here, from their sacrifice for all of us – for the Maltese, for Italians and for all free Europeans.”

“Five years after the terrible attack that cost Daphne Caruana Galizia her life and we are gathered to ask, forcefully and decisively, that justice is done by her,” said Luca Perrino.

He recalled how, in addition to the awards dedicated to the Caruana Galizia, Leali delle Notizie commissioned a mural in Ronchi dedicated to the journalist and, in 2019, honorary ‘citizenship’ had been conferred upon her son Matthew Caruana Galizia.

Luca Perrino

“We remain united and we look forward with courage and confidence,” he said.


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7 months ago

What a wonderful and powerful eulogy to such a brave and tenacious lady.

We must not forget.

We must not give up the fight for justice .

Daphne counts on all decent people to ensure her tireless efforts to bring about change were not in vain.

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