If you are Maltese or passionate about the country, then probably you will never forget where you were on that darkest of days, October 16, 2017, when right after 3pm the news spread that Daphne Caruana Galizia – Malta’s top investigative journalist, leader of opinions in her own right – had been brutally murdered in a car explosion not far from her home in Bidnija.

I remember October 16 as the day I got scolded by Antonio Tajani. I was in my office in Brussels when the news unfolded, and for the next two hours I stood there unable to believe what I was reading. 

I continuously refreshed the online news websites, hoping that everyone was getting it wrong, and that, somehow, Daphne was still alive and would soon update her blog, which had by then a readership that dwarfs that of national newspapers. 

Incredulous as I was, frozen on that keyboard, it did not cross my mind to inform my boss, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who was in his office a few steps away. It was a foreign MEP who gave him the news some time later and he quickly came to ask me why on earth I had left him in the dark.

Daphne’s murder was a wake-up call for Europe – that it cannot lower its guard on freedom of expression and media freedom. 

Side-by-side with Tajani, in the weeks following her murder, we honoured Daphne Caruana Galizia in the proper way, the way she was not here on her motherland.

Tajani took Daphne’s murder personally. 

As a journalist himself, he shared the outrage of the Maltese people and the deep sense of loss and anxiety for media freedom in Malta.

He wanted to be here with us on the day of the last farewell at the rotunda in Mosta. He proposed the naming of the main press room of the European Parliament, the heart of European democracy, in her honour. And on that occasion, in front of her family, he called Daphne a soldier of democracy, a warrior of freedom of expression. 

It was not the only speech delivered in honour of Daphne Caruana Galizia. 

As long as the government keeps sweeping candlesand holding back a public inquiry, we are obliged to keep the heat on

He had opened the speech to the leaders of the European Council with a strong message calling on Maltese authorities to come to the end of this killing. On that day, migration, economy, Brexit, all came second-stage.

In the European Parliament it was clear that Europe cannot and must not tolerate such a murder. 

Tajani and many others took it to task to lead a truly European response to this dark moment in modern European history. 

The European Parliament has since put pressure on the European Commission with a resolution to protect investigative journalism. There are concrete measures in the pipeline to sustain investigative journalists seeking the truth and to push forward an anti-SLAPP EU Directive, to make sure that no Pilatus Bank, no corrupt politician and no criminal in hiding, would ever be able to silence investigative journalists with vexatious lawsuits.

In the next European Parliament we must pursue the change that she triggered. 

I would have loved for this to be also a national agenda rather than just a European one, but as long as the government keeps sweeping candles and holding back a public inquiry, we are obliged to keep the heat on to reach to the masterminds of this affront to democracy.

Today, 19 months following that darkest day, we again commit our resolve to never forget what Daphne gave her life for and to pursue the change that she triggered. To never tire to seek the truth, no matter how difficult the task may seem. 

Above all, we commit ourselves that we won’t stop before those behind Daphne’s murder are brought to justice. 

We don’t only owe that to her and her family. We owe it to our children. We owe it to our national conscience.

Peter Agius is former head of the European Parliament Office and cabinet member of the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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