Wednesday

19th Jun 2019

Opinion

Caruana Galizia one year on: momentum is key

  • Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered by a car bomb in Malta on 16 October last year (Photo: Continentaleurope)

Outside the Maltese Courts of Justice in Valletta, there was a sea of light: it was the glow from the illuminated mobile phones of thousands of people who had gathered to protest.

The crowd was singing the Maltese national anthem. Only minutes earlier, there had been rousing, moving speeches calling on the Maltese authorities for justice. At the front of the crowd, were two girls with tears in their eyes.  

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Real EU legacy would be strong investigative journalism (Photo: European Parliament)

The date - 16 October - marked the first anniversary of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder, and I was in Valletta for the week as part of an international press freedom mission.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, alongside other press freedom groups, was joining in solidarity activities, and meeting government officials to make calls for full justice. 

We have been consistently clear about what this means: the investigation and prosecution of those who orchestrated Daphne's killing (in addition to the detention of three suspects who allegedly carried it out and whose trial is pending). 

For such investigations to be credible, it is essential that those government officials and business figures implicated as a result of her reporting be questioned.

Before coming to Malta, I had been working from Brussels with EU officials on the case.

Maintaining pressure has been important. European Commission and European Parliament statements of concern and country visits, including the work of the rule of law monitoring group, have increased international scrutiny of the case.  

Her death has forced officials to note that some journalists help protect the economic interests of the EU through their investigations - and take considerable risk to do so. 

It also highlighted how many journalists were working in isolated and difficult situations. 

We will need to continue to discuss the protection challenges facing journalists around the bloc. Upholding shared EU values depends on it.

Because of her work, Caruana Galizia put herself at risk. People told her things that may have otherwise remained hidden.

Her investigations helped uncover stories that led to international breaking news: on the Panama Papers, on sales of EU passports, and on massive money-laundering in Malta - amongst other things. 

Her work will continue to be hugely influential in uncovering international financial crime for years to come.  

Forbidden Stories

Caruana Galizia's legacy lives on, in part, through Forbidden Stories, a collaborative journalism network devoted to protect and publish the work of journalists who are threatened, jailed, or killed across the world.

The project has been posthumously following up on her investigations; increasingly, it appears that she had only scratched the surface. 

"At the time, I thought these allegations were crazy," said John Sweeney from the BBC at a recent memorial ceremony in Valletta. "Daphne: I apologise. You were right."

In her journalism, Caruana Galizia would never deviate from what she wanted to say, even if it meant provoking and offending. She would not self-censor. Her writing could be seen as caustic. She could get under people's skin.

You might think that a journalist so committed to uncovering corruption would become a national hero, but Caruana Galizia was vilified by many Maltese.

Months back, I came across a leaked interview between Caruana Galizia and a researcher from the Council of Europe for a 2017 report on self-censorship.

The information presented in the interview told a sinister story: her family dogs being killed, arson attacks on her home, billboards vilifying her, online attacks, social ostracisation by her compatriots (who seemingly preferred to support a common rhetoric that she was a "witch"), libel suits, and open threats from officials.

All were consequences of her self-funded journalistic desire to uncover the less healthy aspects of Maltese life, often implicating leading government officials and businessmen.

In Malta, press freedom groups called for a public enquiry into the circumstances that led to her death, and whether it could have been prevented. We will continue to make this call.

Dangerous environment

We cannot and should not ever tolerate any type of official harassment of journalists because officials do not like their writing. It is dangerous.

The journalist community in Malta is at risk of a wider problem affecting much of Europe at the moment: self-censorship.

When enormous emotional and psychological pressure results from critical reporting, journalists in EU member states may not be so willing to take on some investigative stories.

We must continue to commit to pushing for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia and work in solidarity with all journalists in Malta.

Continued pressure from EU institutions, including during the turmoil of next year's elections, will be needed to ensure that international attention does not drop.

We should also continue the debate around the dangers facing investigative journalists all over Europe, and examine what is required to ensure they can carry out their work safely. 

It will never make up for the light that was lost in Malta, but perhaps this can be part of Daphne's lasting legacy.

Tom Gibson is the lead advocate in Brussels of the Committee to Protect Journalists, an NGO in New York, who previously worked on press freedom in Africa

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life

Simon Busuttil spent 10 years as an MEP before returning to Malta to lead the opposition. He now fears for his life amid probes into high-level corruption in Malta's government.

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

News in Brief

  1. New socialist group leader to push for Timmermans
  2. Romanian ex-PM frontrunner to head new liberal group
  3. France, Germany and Spain in fighter jet deal
  4. Tusk grilled in Poland over role as PM
  5. Italy is 'most credible' US partner in EU, says Salvini
  6. EU blames Sudan junta for killings and rapes
  7. Report: EU may suspend Turkey customs union talks
  8. Swiss stock exchange could lose EU access in July

Six takeaways on digital disinformation at EU elections

For example, Germany's primetime TV news reported that 47 percent of political social media discussions were related to the extreme-right AfD party, when in fact this was the case only for Twitter - used by only four percent of Germans.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. EU urges Swiss to move on talks or face sanction
  2. Frontex transparency dispute goes to EU court
  3. Commission goes easy on scant national climate plans
  4. Macron and Mogherini decline to back US accusation on Iran
  5. EU summit must give effective answer on migration
  6. Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament
  7. Erdogan mocks Macron amid EU sanctions threat
  8. The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  3. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  4. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us