Some of the most prominent writers in the world have urged the European Commission to investigate Valletta 2018 chairman Jason Micallef for repeatedly mocking assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The writers from PEN International include The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood, Life of Pi author Yann Martel, The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie, and Norwegian publisher William Nygaard – who was shot three times after publishing Rushdie’s famous book in 1993.
“We write to you on the six-month anniversary of of the brutal assassination of our colleague, Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta’s foremost investigative journalist, to express our profound concern with developments in Malta in the context of the investigation into her assassination, and in particular regarding the behaviour of the management of Valletta 2018, the European Capital of Culture,” the authors said. “The assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia was ordered in direct response to her journalistic work in exposing rampant government corruption at the heart of the EU. Since her death, we have witnessed with horror the repeated and aggressive destruction of the memorial to Daphne Caruana Galizia in Valletta, which was created in response to the horrific events. The Maltese authorities have not attempted to protect this memorial.”
In particular, the writers expressed their outrage at Jason Micallef for repeatedly ridiculing Caruana Galzia on social media, ordering the removal of banners calling for justice to her death and calling for her makeshift memorial to be cleared.
Signatory William Nygaard was shot three times outside his home after publishing The Satanic Verses
“This is far from appropriate behaviour for an official designated to represent the European Capital of Culture, and in fact serves to further the interests of those trying to prevent an effective and impartial investigation into Caruana Galizia’s death,” the authors wrote. “Creative Europe’s mandate is the support and promotion of culture and media in the region. European culture includes the freedom to criticise, satirise and investigate those in power. The role of the Chairman of the European Capital of Culture should be to safeguard this right, not to threaten it. We believe this behaviour completely demeans the role and has profound implications for the integrity of the programme as a whole.
“There can be no tolerance for the ridiculing of the assassination of a journalist in the heart of the EU, especially from the very authorities entrusted to promote the EU’s media and culture. We therefore urge you to immediately investigate these allegations against Jason Micallef. If found to be true, we urge you to call for his resignation and for the appointment of a qualified individual who demonstrates the requisite integrity for this role.”
Micallef seemed nonplussed by this show of condemnation and this morning pledged to remove banners that were erected overnight across Malta to commemorate six months since Caruana Galizia’s assassination.
“The blatant provocation by those who cry on a daily basis about the rule of law goes on,” Micallef said. “Il-Kenniesa [an activist group] are challenging us again and last night concealed strips of Valletta 2018 by illegally placing banners on top of them. The law in Malta applies for everyone and this abuse will be removed immediately.”