Malta is shaken to its core. A journalist and blogger who influenced so many aspects of life in Malta has been slain in the most brutal way possible. Whether you were a loyal follower or a strong critic of her work is irrelevant at this stage. This is bigger than us and it’s bigger than her.
Most of us don’t know what to do except cry, march and hope for some justice. But instead of casting blame or carrying out our own amateur investigations on scant information, there are some things we can insist upon to shed some light on such a desperate situation.
1. The chief of police must resign
The Police Commissioner simply does not enjoy the confidence of the Maltese people. He has failed to hold a press conference or shown any presence since Caruana Galizia was killed. Instead, he represents a culture in the force that allows police sergeants to comfortably rejoice on Facebook at the murder of a journalist. This is already intolerable but it cannot be interpreted within a vacuum. There have been countless unsolved bombings under his watch and seemingly no effort to close massively important cases involving some of Malta’s highest government officials. As long as he is at the helm, there will not be faith in this crucial institution. The selection of a new Police Commissioner must enjoy the confidence of at least both sides of Parliament but should also be given the stamp of approval by a body that can represent civil society. For similar reasons, the Police Minister should also step down.
2. The Constitution must be changed
There’s little use replacing the Police Commissioner or the Attorney General if there are no mechanisms in place to make sure these roles are not handed out depending on political allegiances. There must be a serious discussion on updating the Constitution to allow for remedies when the public loses faith in these people or when they commit some form of wrongdoing. The same applies for the choices of magistrates and judges who simply cannot continue to be seen as political appointees. We need an absolute overhaul of the way power is distributed in the country to ensure the legislative, executive and judiciary power in Malta are not dangerously accumulated in the hands of the few.
3. There must be new laws to protect journalists
Journalists need protection now more than ever. There must be harsher penalties for harassing, attacking, injuring or killing journalists in Malta. This is a profession that needs protection. We need to educate society about the crucial role of the media to hold power to account. We cannot tolerate a situation where this is so fundamentally misunderstood by society that people feel empowered to attack journalists. Even bullying tactics from rich foreign companies who threaten to haul newspapers to courts in foreign jurisdictions should not be tolerated by the country and should be legislated against.
4. The media must come together
This is a crucial time for the media. The death of Daphne Caruana Galizia must be met with a show of long-term unity by the Maltese press, ideally in the form of a foundation that can seriously fight for press freedom in Malta and legislative changes. For too long the Maltese press has preferred to dent each other’s credibility instead of standing up for the credibility of the fourth estate as a whole.
5. The state should support the Caruana Galizia family
This family has suffered enough. They should not be forced to pay any more for their mother’s work. She paid the ultimate price. Instead, there should be a thorough investigation into whether the police were giving her adequate protection.
6. The inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder should be made public
Malta cannot accept a situation where this incident is left in the history books as yet another unsolved car bomb. There must be some level of public disclosure as to the investigation. There must be some level of transparency. The involvement of foreign experts to lead the investigation is positive but it must be explained in its full details.
7. Serious action must be taken to clear Malta’s name
Whoever committed the act of brutality against Caruana Galizia, it is clear that her death leaves an international stain on Malta’s reputation. Caruana Galizia will always be associated with her relentless fight against corruption and therefore it is unsurprising that her past allegations will now resurface with a vengeance. It is imperative that the government imposes radical changes to prove its goodwill when it comes to fighting against corruption and criminality.
Caruana Galizia may have been an exceptionally divisive figure politically, but what happened to her cuts through the political divide and is unacceptable to anybody of goodwill. It is a horrific crime that must be seen to be countered with serious actions.
In her honour, we must unite for real and long-lasting change in the country which requires a bipartisan and non-political effort by the people of this country. We all must show resolve and stamina until these and other demands are met.