“Daphne was right; it’s not an empty slogan,” said Repubblika Vice President Alessandra Dee Crespo at a vigil held in remembrance of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was brutally assassinated by a car bomb on 16 October 2017.
The vigil was held in Valletta’s Great Siege Square, six years since Caruana Galizia’s assassination. Speeches were made honouring Caruana Galizia’s memory, including by organisers Repubblika’s Robert Aquilina and Alessandra Dee Crespo, former FIAU investigator Jonathan Ferris and international speakers Fondazzione Falcone’s Alessandro Delisi and Slovak journalist and activist Karolína Farská.
Crespo condemned Prime Minister Robert Abela’s responses to the recently revealed social benefits and driving licence rackets. She said despite being understandably tired by such gluttony, “day after day, month after month, year after year,” civil society must “wake up the next day and continue its work” with a “thirst for justice.”
“Daphne was right. It’s not just an empty slogan,” she said. “Burning down her house door with her young children inside, killing her dog, stalking her in Rabat, freezing her bank accounts and launching court cases to silence her (SLAPPs)” were all a testament to this, she said.
Alessandro Delisi from the Sicilian rule of law advocacy group Fondazione Falcone spoke about the parallels between the Sicilian Mafia and the corruption issues faced by Maltese society. He called such practices a “social and cultural coup d’etat”.
He called for more action from civil society, saying that “it is [the public’s] responsibility to turn their sadness and anger into energy and determination,” ending his speech with “we will win, the mafia will lose”.
Former FIAU investigator Jonathan Ferris, who was illegally fired in 2017, paid his respects to Caruana Galizia. He said that after getting to know her following his unlawful termination, he saw how “behind her blog posts, behind her powerful pen, there was a mother with a big heart and a lot of empathy for those going through difficult times”.
“Caruana Galizia loved her country. She loved it to the end. For this, she paid the highest price,” he said. Ferris called for civil society to “keep the sense of justice alive and close”.
Slovak journalist and activist Karolína Farská, who is at the forefront of a press freedom campaign following the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiance Martina Kušnírová in Slovakia in 2018, also spoke at the event.
Speaking to those who vilify protest movements, Farská asked them to reconsider. She said the real enemy is “not people in the streets” but “corruption, lies, conspiracies, hatred and all those who spread them”.
“This is your country. Don’t let it be stolen by those who don’t care about you, who are betraying you,” she said.
In a speech addressed to Matthew, Andrew and Paul Caruana Galizia, Ethan Mifsud, a young winner of a Repubblika initiative for active citizenship in schools, said Daphne taught him the meaning of integrity. He said, “You need great courage to live according to your values and not according to what you can gain”.
He was followed by speakers from press freedom and anti-corruption organisations. These included Chiara Di Gaetano from anti-mafia group Libera, who spoke about the unseen victims of organised crime and their “newfound responsibility to speak on behalf of their lost relatives”, and Tom Gibson from the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, who questioned why, as an EU member state, Malta was still addressing fundamental press freedom issues.
The vigil was held following a series of events organised in Caruana Galizia’s memory, which included a silent gathering at the site of her assassination in Bidnija and a protest march in Valletta.
A public inquiry into the assassination of Caruana Galizia concluded that the State was responsible for her murder by creating a culture of impunity that allowed those who commissioned it to feel secure there would be no consequences.
Recommendations in the public inquiry, published in 2021, have yet to be implemented by the Maltese government. The government’s proposed legislative amendments ignored the inquiry’s recommendations for the strengthening of the rule of law in Malta and substantially amended recommendations for improvements to the journalistic sector.
International press freedom and human rights organisations have today come together to renew the call for full justice and the safety of journalists.