The Daphne report should be regarded as a cautionary tale of how a rogue state can conspire to neutralise and eliminate a journalist

Owen Bonnici was right nearly four years ago when he blurted out to a foreign newspaper that Daphne Caruana Galizia was “killed by politicians”. This lapsus plays on a loop on our social media because we knew from the beginning that Daphne wasn’t killed by the oil- smuggling barons or other red herrings thrown by Castille to divert and deflect our attention from the stench that was emanating from the seat of government.

The Public Inquiry Report makes for grim reading but none of us were shocked or surprised by the conclusions reached by the board: that the state “should shoulder responsibility for the assassination”. The board singled out former prime minister Joseph Muscat for enabling the culture of impunity that “generated from the highest echelons of the administration inside Castille, the tentacles of which then spread to other institutions, such as the police and regulatory authorities, leading to a collapse in the rule of law”.

Caruana Galizia believed in the state. She was confident that her work will result in arraignments, prosecutions, convictions. We saw her beaming at the Panama Papers protests, notebook in hand. But the more she exposed, the more we worried for her safety.

Under the cryptic blog post published on February 22, 2016 that broke the Panama Papers story, Daphne had written: “What do you imagine will happen? An assassination attempt? Please. No, the story can’t be made to disappear.”

The story did not disappear. She was discredited instead. It was open season on her by the Labour Party, from the troll behind the screen right up to each and every member of the Labour parliamentary group.

It was orchestrated as such. For the report states that “not only did the government fail to take any action to remedy the situation but cabinet and the parliamentary group gave its support through votes of confidence to those involved”.

One of the people who was in Muscat’s cabinet at the time is now the President of the Republic. Will George Vella, as head of state, apologise to the family and to the country for being part of the forces that led to the assassination of a citizen of this nation? Will he acknowledge that patriots are not only the ones who have fought in sieges and wars and for whom he lays wreaths at the foot of national monuments? Will our head of state, who claims to value national unity, finally lay a wreath at the foot of the Great Siege Monument in tribute to a modern day heroine who loved her country and fell in the line of duty in a war that she fought single-handed?

The board singled out Joseph Muscat for enabling the culture of impunity that ‘generated from the highest echelons of the administration inside Castille’

Some people have always questioned our narrative these past years that Daphne was killed for her work. Some even challenged us whether we were willing to stake our reputation on such claims. We always have.

But now we have a tribunal of the state concluding that Caruana Galizia’s writing about the intimacy between big business and politics led to her assassination.

Murder because she wrote.

In her writings subsequent to her Panama Papers and 17 Black revelations, Daphne railed at the institutions that remained inert, paralysed, captured by the state. One by one, the institutions failed her. And,  in the end, in failing her, the institutions killed her. For, in choosing to sit on files, party with suspects and generally mobilise an entire political party against her and her work, Daphne was left alone. And she was killed. Because public officials who don’t do their duty are fundamentally fatal to democracy. And journalism is one of the pillars of our democracy.

We are all part of the state. We must all shoulder responsibility for being spectators, passive consumers and, maybe sometimes, even detractors of her work because Daphne might have written something that hit my tribalism, insularity and amoral familism.

Being an investigative journalist in this country is still dangerous. The Public Inquiry Report should be regarded as a cautionary tale of how a rogue state, even in the heart of the European Union, can conspire to neutralise and finally eliminate a journalist. We cannot stop at the findings, however. The report is also a blueprint of the way forward. What Malta does with the recommendations of the public inquiry will determine the future of our country.

Yes, people need to be held accountable. But we cannot stop there. We owe it to Daphne to see that we leave a country behind that is better equipped to deal with dissent, with freedom of thought and the right to freedom of expression. Yes, the state failed her but we are also the state. We cannot fail her too because the state is each and every one of us.

Malta should not be remembered only for killing a journalist but it should also be remembered for learning the crucial lessons from this assassination.

As head of state, Mr President, you should lead the way.

Alessandra Dee Crespo, president-elect, Repubblika

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.