“There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”

Daphne Caruana Galizia’s last words on her blog ‘Running Commentary’, penned shortly before she was blown up by a car bomb on October 16, 2017, have entered deeply into the national discourse about the very corruption she had started to uncover.

Three years down the line, many of the crooks she wrote about are being exposed for what they are, and often in a courtroom.

The situation has now reached a point where these crooks are increasingly finding themselves having to clutch at every straw in a desperate bid to keep themselves afloat while resolving that, if push comes to shove, they will not go down alone.

Caruana Galizia was branded a public enemy and incurred the wrath of the whole Labour administration but she stood up to it and persisted... until that fateful afternoon three years ago today. A glass of expensive red wine could well have been raised and messages of jubilation exchanged among those desperate individuals who thought the situation was now under control.

But the shrapnel from that improvised explosive device that killed Caruana Galizia has caused them serious wounds which are now festering. There have already been some amputations.

Three men have been accused of planting and detonating the lethal bomb and another of commissioning the nefarious crime. But the case is far from over. The murder will only be solved when the perpetrators, those who commissioned the crime, and those who encouraged it by possibly ‘guaranteeing’ impunity, are found guilty and punished.

The situation is indeed desperate for those once considered untouchable and who thought they could remain in the shadows, concealed and protected. She was killed because of her writings. Former prime minister Joseph Muscat himself admitted that much when he spoke of a “black day for freedom of expression”. It also proved to be a dark day for the corrupt government he presided over.

The independent media and civil society took up the cudgels on Caruana Galizia’s behalf.

In the last year, the independent media has been at the forefront of exposing the web of corruption and impunity which ultimately led to one of the most gruesome murders this country has witnessed.

Some journalists have done this at great personal risk.

It has also led to the creation of initiatives like the initiative Daphne Project, an international collaboration involving Times of Malta.

Regretfully, journalism in Malta continues to face threats that vary in nature. Among them is the government’s habitual lack of transparency even in the face of requests under the Freedom of Information Act, and the control and influence of large swathes of the media by political actors, to list a few. All this is happening amid a narrowing pipeline of funding for independent and investigative journalism.

Ultimately, Caruana Galizia’s elimination gave rise to the widespread acceptance of two crucial realities: that a gang of crooks can hijack a government and its institutions for their own selfish and sinister ends and that, when this happens, well-resourced independent journalism is the only real antidote to abuse of power.

On this third anniversary of Caruana Galizia’s assassination, this country must resolve, first, that effective checks and balances are put in place to ensure good governance and the rule of law will once again reign supreme.

Secondly, independent media needs to get all the help possible to carry out its essential role as a watchdog to the institutions.

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