Photo: Malta Book Festival
A joke by Justice Minister Owen Bonnici related to the makeshift Valletta memorial to Daphne Caruana Galizia has fallen foul of award-winning author and social activist Naomi Klein.
“What chills me is the joking. Just today, I’ve heard that your Justice Minister used Instagram to ask his followers if they like him better with a beard than when he was clean-shaven in the picture of him that was on the memorial wall,” Klein said last night. “That communicates a message of a lack of seriousness about this crime, and when high officials act like that it sends a message that journalists are fair game. That’s whats happening with Trump when he’s out there everyday going ‘fake news, fake news, you’re the enemy of the people’.”
“I’m sorry, but I link that to the Saudi government thinking they could do to Jamal Khashoggi what they did to him, because they were hearing all this from their most important ally.”
Bonnici posted a poll about his beard after activists from Rezistenza had hung up his clean-shaven face with the slogan ‘Minister of Censorship’ on the boarding surrounding the Great Siege Monument. The banner was erected as retaliation for the repeated removal from the site of flowers, candles and banners in honour of Caruana Galizia by government workers from the Cleansing Department, which Bonnici is politically responsible for.
Klein, renowned for her climate change activism and criticism of corporate globalisation, was interviewed by MaltaToday’s editor Matthew Vella last night as part of this year’s Malta Book Festival.
She urged the Maltese public to look beyond their partisan allegiances and support calls for an independent inquiry to establish how Caruana Galizia was murdered, whether it could have been prevented, and the links between the murder and her journalism.
“I understand that this is a very partisan country, that there are different factions and that it’s very hard not to see something like this through the lenses of partisanship,” she said. “I have no doubt I would have had political disagreements with Daphne, but that’s not what this is about.”
She also warned that Malta’s low corporate tax rate regime, its sale-of-citizenship scheme and its iGaming sector has created opportunities for “some pretty shady characters”.
“What Daphne was doing with her journalism, what she was tapping into… regardless of people’s opinions of her, what she did was really important, because if Malta is going to throw in its lot with the shadow economy, then some light is your best disinfectant. You need as many checks and balances as possible to prevent this country from turning into a mafia state, and investigative journalists are a big part of that.”