A young Maltese woman has opened up about the dangers of speaking out against the powers that be in a society that frowns upon dissenters.
“What faith are young people supposed to have in the systems that are designed to protect us if every investigation into the powerful hits a dead end before it is even started?” Martina Farrugia said.
“If any act of public dissent will have you denounced as a traitor and have your private information shared on trolling groups calling for your lynching? Do our human rights not count as long as the country is making money?”
“This behaviour needs to be denounced. There is no room for positivity here. It is not the opposition’s or the media’s job to be positive and look on the bright side of life. No matter how much Mrs [Michelle] Muscat insists on it.”
“So it falls to civil society to demand better. Yes, it’s a bit scary to stick your neck out. We know that a lot of people are afraid to come to vigils or voice their opinions because they fear the backlash.”
“We know that firms, both legal and financial, instruct their employees to remain silent and not participate in civil society for fear of lost tenders and income. We know that persons of trust employed by the government have singled out protesters and called for a boycott of their businesses.”
Martina Farrugia’s speech starts at 41:32
“But ladies and gentlemen, if your livelihood and income is dependent on your submission to and your silence in the face of government corruption and the murder of one of us, then let’s face it. This is a tyranny – don’t try and tell me that this is the best of times.”
“So it’s time to be brave. It’s time to stop counting our euros and to recover some national pride. It’s time to demand some standards, to stand up and say, enough. Not in my name and never ever again.”
Farrugia was speaking at a vigil in Valletta to mark a year and a half since the car bomb assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
She recounted how she grew up completely disinterested in politics and that ‘Parliament’ was used at home and in school as a metaphor for loud, opinionated people shouting over each other.
“Sunday lunches, noisy and overcrowded events filled with highly opinionated people. Inevitably discussions would devolve into everyone talking over each other and nobody hearing anything. Upon seeing me wide-eyed, my nannu would look at me and sigh “beda l-parliament”.”
“It was only perhaps 10 years ago that I developed the beginnings of an interest in politics. I think I was the only person in the whole of 6th Form to love Systems of Knowledge. I began to follow a number of local political columns and opinion pieces. I read Raphael Vassallo, Mario Demarco, Evarist Bartolo and Daphne Caruana Galizia of course.”
“Then came Daphne’s blog. Her writing was sharp, it was witty, sometimes very funny, sometimes hard and unrelenting.”
She noted how common it was for people to mutter among themselves that someone would kill Caruana Galizia one day.
“On reflection, wasn’t this such a crazy thing to say? In a democratic country in the European Union, wasn’t it madness to think that a journalist reporting on corruption in a country the size of a small European city was at risk of being murdered for her writings?”
“And I think, No, no it wasn’t. Why? Daphne reported on corruption or bad public behaviour on a near constant basis, yet what was done about it? Nothing, or very rarely anything.”
“It was like there was a kink in the chain. Instead of her reporting setting off a criminal investigation or at the very least some sort of political or social repercussion, ostracisation for being a criminal maybe, there would be a pushback… only it was against Daphne and not the people she wrote about.”
“Daphne became the enemy. It didn’t happen overnight. It took 30 long years of careful crafting, careful rhetoric. 30 years of serious public complacency. 30 years of scapegoating, libel suits, blurring lines between journalist and politician, 30 years using harassment and dehumanising tactics to ensure that no matter what Daphne Caruana Galizia wrote, it would be regarded as a lie, jealousy – ħdura ghax kienet saħħara imdejqa (jealousy because she was a frustrated witch).”
“So effective was this campaign of hatred against a journalist that when Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered on the 16th October 2017, people actually went carcading.”
She questioned why her murder wasn’t a turning-point for Maltese society, why the Education Minister didn’t instantly overhaul the academic curriculum to ensure children are taught about the importance of freedom of expression from a speech and why the Finance Minister didn’t demand reforms to clamp down on money laundering.
“Not a single ounce of responsibility has been shouldered for Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder,” she noted.