Malta has had one of its daughters snatched violently away from it. A fearless campaigner, a wife, a mother, a reluctant feminist, Daphne Caruana Galizia could just not let corruption be swept under the carpet. She exposed truths that were often hard to hear. She paid for it with her life.
Such was Caruana Galizia’s impact on the Maltese political scene that her first name would generally suffice for everyone to understand exactly who it was they were talking about.
She was a one-woman force to be reckoned with, who wrote it as she saw it without letting fear of reprisals condition a word she wrote. Daphne was too smart not to realise the dark forces she was up against as she campaigned against corruption but she did it anyway. Her principles came before her safety.
Her horrific assassination shocked me, shocked the country and shocked the Brussels corridors and beyond. I will never forget the moment in the middle of a debate in the European Parliament’s Terrorism Committee when I heard the sickening news. Neither will anyone in Malta or any of the thousands who attended a spontaneous vigil in Sliema hours later.
This act of disgusting terror was not only an attack on one person. This was an attack on all of us, on the very fabric of our fragile, young democracy in Malta. It was the darkest episode for Malta in a generation. It was intended as a message to anyone who may dare speak out. The aim was to silence. It will have the opposite effect.
Daphne had been writing for decades and was a constant, daily target. Egged on by racists, misogynists, populists and people who should know better, they went after her again and again. And she carried on. She had guts and was a vocal, opinionated woman writing a blog and a newspaper column and some people simply could not stomach that.
This was an attack on all of us, on the very fabric of our fragile, young democracy in Malta
She smashed ceilings and took on a reality many would shy away from touching. Daphne was often the voice, sometimes the solitary voice, of those who believed that a better way is possible. Who refused to accept the cronyism, corruption and mediocrity that too many people take for granted. They got her in the end, but she can never be silenced. Those repulsive few, including, astonishingly, members of Malta’s police force, who thought this was an act worth celebrating will find their joy short-lived. She was one of a kind, but they will soon realise her voice was not just hers: it is thousands loud.
The intimidation of journalists in Malta is not new, but nowhere was it more evident than with Daphne – so much so that I wrote to European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans in February, urging him to remind the Maltese authorities of their obligations to protect journalists after Economy Minister Chris Cardona thought it would be a good idea to freeze Daphne’s assets after she exposed his alleged escapades in a German brothel while on official government business.
Her relentless exposé of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri’s secret global financial vehicles as part of the Panama Papers and her contested allegations of Azerbaijani money being secretly paid to the Prime Minister’s family have become defining moments in Maltese political history.
Mizzi, Schembri and the Prime Minister all retain their positions in government. The police have still refused to investigate the Panama Papers.
It was not only investigations. Her commentary on political and social life in Malta was read by thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands. Daphne did not mince her words when she wrote about the Nationalist Party, either. If she ever disagreed with anything, she would never hold back.
Her assassination sparked an outpouring of outrage, of grief, of anger. #IamDaphne started trending on social media, but the sad truth is that we were not all Daphnes. She was often alone under virtual siege. If we had all been Daphnes, I would not be writing this.
Daphne’s job is not yet done. Her last written words are telling: “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”
To the crooks, know that your time is soon up. We owe it to her to help finish what she started. And we will.
To her family, husband, sisters, parents and her boys, I cannot even begin to imagine what you must all be going through. Know that my thoughts, my prayers and those of thousands and thousands of others are with you. Your mother, sister, wife and daughter was one of the bravest. Her legacy will live on.
Roberta Metsola is a member of the European Parliament.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us