The Least We Can Do Six Months After Daphne Caruana Galizia Was Killed
If only more of us were ready to pay the ultimate price for speaking the truth
Six months ago I received an email from a Washington lawyer acting on behalf of Pilatus Bank. The letter threatened a five million dollar law suit if I didn’t remove or amend three articles I had published several months earlier.
The email landed inside my inbox at 3.48am and gave me 48 hours to comply.
That same day, exactly 12 hours later, the mother of my school friends Matthew, Andrew and Paul, was killed in a car bomb outside her home, a five-minute drive from where I live. And within hours, Daphne Caruana Galizia’s name became known around the globe.
The second I heard the news, my body was filled with a sense of shame. From when I was a young teenager, I had followed almost every word she had written. Her work was what inspired me to pursue journalism in the first place. And yet, on the day she was killed, I had just succumbed to legal threats that she would have never tolerated.
Besides shame, I also felt guilt. I couldn’t help but feel a little responsible for her death, like there was more I could have done to prevent it. Maybe if we defended her more vociferously, her killers would have felt less emboldened to commit the horrific crime. Instead, like many others, I too had fallen victim to the narrative that she was somehow “too much”, that her style betrayed real journalism and that her pen was too poisonous.
Her pen was poisonous, there’s no denying that. But as someone who followed her career so closely and so comprehensively, surely I knew more than most what she really stood for. As a fellow journalist, surely I knew the depths to which some people would sink to extinguish their critic’s credibility.
Yet, I too turned her into a pariah. I let people mock her and downplay her work in my presence. I failed to defend her when she was slandered.
Today, only six months later, her memory is still being attacked. Both physically - her makeshift memorial outside the law courts has been vandalised countless times - and metaphorically, in the way even government officials like Glenn Bedingfield and Josef Caruana talk about her.
Daphne Caruana Galizia may not have been an easy person to interact with. She may not have had enough patience for those who disagreed with her. She may not even have been very nice. But if there’s one thing she was, it’s a ballsy journalist who chased a story relentlessly till its conclusion and presented it in a way that could get the whole country talking. She may not have always been fair or unprejudiced, but she was never afraid of holding power to account. And in a society where even the wealthiest businesspeople are afraid of their own shadows, this is a quality we desperately needed.
Pushing the boundaries of good taste, acceptability and fairness, does not make you a bad journalist, much less one that deserves to be killed or forgotten.
"Pushing the boundaries of good taste, acceptability and fairness, does not make you a bad journalist, much less one that deserves to be killed or forgotten."
In the past six months, Maltese journalists have grappled with the loss of Daphne Caruana Galizia. To many, she was a teacher and a friend. But she was also a competitor we all loved to hate - like the best student in class who makes everyone else looks dumb.
We loved to talk about where she went wrong because it made us feel less inadequate when she scooped us a hundred times over. But after she paid the ultimate price, criticism is superfluous and misguided.
Today, six months after her tragic loss, we remain frozen in shock, none the wiser about who killed her, the people she wrote about still comfortable in their positions. The stories she broke remain unresolved. And we wait, expecting them to resolve themselves.
What we should be doing is investigating the stories she can no longer investigate and show the same resolve she showed when she was at her best. Let's hope The Daphne Project paves the way and shows us what journalists and media houses can do when they join forces.
"What we should be doing is investigating the stories she can no longer investigate and show the same resolve she showed when she was at her best."
Perhaps today can be the day we get over the grieving process and start to pick up where she left off. We owe it, first and foremost, to ourselves.
As an editor of one of Malta’s fledgling media enterprises, I have decided to republish, against legal advice, the stories Pilatus Bank wanted removed six months ago. I urge the other newspapers who fell victims to their threats to do the same. It's the least we can do.
If we act as one, it will be harder to break us.
These are the Lovin Malta articles Pilatus Bank wanted removed or amended: