Can Europe Make It?

Andrew Caruana Galizia: ‘‘Without free journalism, there can be no democracy.’’

Why we need to recognize this fight for justice as our own. Interview.

Yorgos Boskos
18 April 2019
Andrew Caruana Galizia, son of the murdered Daphne Caruana Galizia, intrepid Maltese journalist.
Andrew Caruana Galizia, son of the murdered Daphne Caruana Galizia, intrepid Maltese journalist.

Eighteen months after the murder of the fearless investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was writing about bribery, organized crime and money laundering and exposing corruption in Malta, it is still unknown who is behind her death. In this interview her son, Andrew Caruana Galizia, talked about his mother’s relentless courage in the fight for justice. ‘‘My mother’s murder represents a crime against us all - everyone in Europe and beyond - and against the European values my mother fought so hard to uphold’’, Galizia said. As for the public inquiry into the circumstances of his mother’s assassination, he stated that Malta's prime minister has been refusing to set it up for the past seventeen months. ‘There is total impunity for my mother’s murder’’, Galizia affirmed. A year and half later, Daphne Caruana Galizia’s violent murder remains unsolved and her family is still looking for answers.

Yorgos Boskos (YB): It is still not known who was behind your mother’s murder. Where is the justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia?

Andrew Caruana Galizia (ACG): Justice for my mother’s assassination will be served when everyone involved in the crime, and those who enabled and protected them, is prosecuted and punished. So far, only three people have been identified, suspected of executing the crime. Those who commissioned it and their intermediaries have not been publicly identified. There is total impunity for my mother’s murder. Justice for my mother also means justice when it comes to the criminality and corruption that she exposed. But even there, there is total impunity. She named people, provided irrefutable evidence, and published story after story, but no one has ever been prosecuted and no one has ever resigned or been made to leave public office.

YB: So many questions, so few answers so far. Are you still digging for the truth?

ACG: My family has formally asked Malta’s government to set up an independent and impartial public inquiry into whether our mother’s life could have been saved. It is the only process which can rule out state complicity and institutional failings and the only way for the Maltese state to learn lessons about how to protect journalists and prevent future murders.

You’d expect a European Union member state to take the initiative itself, in the interests of protecting individual lives and safeguarding democracy. Our family’s lawyers, human rights experts, have advised us a public inquiry is a state obligation under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life. Malta is a signatory to the ECHR, and the legislation for setting up a public inquiry in Malta, the Inquiries Act, already exists. The power to set up an inquiry rests with the prime minister.

You’d expect a European Union member state to take the initiative itself, in the interests of protecting individual lives and safeguarding democracy.

But despite the multiple calls by international press freedom and free expression organizations, human rights NGOs, noted writers, national governments at the UN’s Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, and despite the recommendation of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, the prime minister is refusing to set up an immediate public inquiry.

YB: Tell me about your mother's career as an investigative journalist? What kind of pressures did she feel she was under?

ACG: It must have been difficult for our mother in our early years, but she never complained to us or made us feel afraid. She created a sense of normality around our family life. I remember when we came home from school and found that our dog had been killed. Its throat was slit and the killer had left it in front of our door. Our mother told us “it must have eaten rat poison”, took us inside and made lunch as usual.

When our home’s front door was set on fire, she said it was because she had left some candles burning outside. Years later, our home was set on fire again, this time with the clear intention to kill us all as we slept inside. We grew up thinking this kind of pressure is normal, half expecting someone to call us and tell us that something terrible has happened or been done to our mother.

We grew up thinking this kind of pressure is normal, half expecting someone to call us and tell us that something terrible has happened or been done to our mother.

It isn’t normal at all. No one should be killed for their work. The pressure escalated in recent years, especially when she began uncovering corruption at the highest levels of government and exposing the web of people involved in and out of government. But nothing was ever going to stop her. In the end, it took a bomb, an assassination that matches the scale of the crimes she was uncovering.

YB:Who ordered the car bomb that killed Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia? Who do you suspect?

ACG: Three suspects have been arraigned. Once they were identified, we knew immediately that they had not acted alone. They aren’t the people my mother wrote about, and they are unlikely to have ever read anything she’d written.

We do not know who is behind the murder, but it is obvious to us that her murder is connected to her work. It is unlikely that my mother’s assassination was ordered by someone without a criminal past, as distinct from someone with a criminal record. It is likely to be one or more people who have acted with impunity before and felt confident that they would not face justice for my mother’s murder. That implies that they were protected by institutional inaction.

My mother uncovered corruption and crime on a scale that is not possible without institutional indifference or complicity. That is why a public inquiry is so important to the cause of justice. It is the only way to rule out state complicity or failure in my mother’s murder.

My mother uncovered corruption and crime on a scale that is not possible without institutional indifference or complicity.

YB: Seven journalists have been killed in Europe since the start of 2017. It seems that killing is becoming the most effective form of media censorship. What measures should be taken to defend investigative journalism and those who fight corruption?

ACG: Impunity for the murder of journalists and human rights defenders, and impunity for the crimes they expose and oppose, creates a climate where murder is an effective form of censorship.

My mother’s assassination didn’t happen in a vacuum. It was the natural outcome of a deteriorating situation where the corrupt are not brought to justice, institutions are paralyzed, unwilling or unable to function, and civil society and activists are intimidated and undermined.

There have to be consequences for attacks and crimes against journalists and human rights defenders. And there have to be consequences for those whom they expose. Malta has many lessons to learn about how to protect journalists. It cannot learn them without holding a public inquiry into the circumstances of my mother’s murder.

YB: Has the Maltese government done enough to solve the crime or demonstrated a lack of will to investigate the motive behind your mother’s assassination?

ACG: It is up to investigators to solve the crime. But it is up to government to enable investigators to work freely. My mother wrote mainly about people in power, but no one has resigned or been made to leave public office. That makes the task of investigators more difficult.

We are not aware that anyone my mother wrote about has been placed under formal investigation either for what she exposed about them or as a suspect in her murder. The one thing government can do is to set up an independent and impartial public inquiry into the circumstances of her assassination. The power to set up a public inquiry is vested in the prime minister. Yet he hasn’t done so, despite saying for the past 17 months that he will leave no stone unturned. The reasons he has given for the delay do not make sense. Denying my mother and my family the right to a public inquiry aggravates the injustice of her murder.

YB: How would you describe the current state of the media in Malta?

ACG: It is particularly dangerous for investigative journalists. Up to 16 October 2017, it was already very difficult. Now, journalists live and work in a country where a journalist was assassinated, and where no one has been brought to justice for the crime of her murder or for the crimes and corruption she uncovered. This has an impact on the democratic life of the country.

Without the freedom to effectively hold power to account, journalists and journalism are restricted, particularly when there are no consequences for what they reveal. This has a real and lasting impact on the democratic life of the country. Without free journalism, there can be no democracy.

YB: The Daphne Project was a milestone in the fight to defend press freedom. What was the biggest achievement of the research?

ACG: The best way to protect journalists is for there to be consequences for those who threaten them. What the Daphne Project has done is show that killing a journalist has a price. You can’t kill the stories by killing the messenger. 45 journalists in 15 countries took up my mother’s stories. The message is clear - killing a journalist doesn’t pay.

YB: I think Daphne Caruana Galizia was a ‘One-Woman WikiLeaks’. Do you agree?

ACG: That is how Politico magazine described my mother when they included her in their 2017 list of 28 people who are shaping, shaking and stirring Europe. It’s a fair description of how one person, practically single-handedly, held an entire government to account by exposing the corruption at its core.

She was often first with important news and often also the only journalist with the story behind the headlines. People trusted her with information because they knew she would always protect her sources. The scale of what she exposed was, frankly, frightening. It still is.

Her influence is undeniable. Even her detractors recognize that. Her personal blog frequently had more visitors than all of Malta’s independent newspapers put together. On the day the last general election result was announced, her blog received more than one million visits. As my mother herself put it in what has come to be one of her most referenced posts – “Right and wrong are not a popularity contest”– people visited the blog “to feel normal in a sea of insanity”. They still do. People have often told members of my family that they still read the blog to make sense of things.

YB: Are you optimistic? Do you think Malta’s mafia will be brought to justice?

ACG: Malta’s institutions need to become fully independent and impartial, and Europe needs institutions with transnational powers to deal with what is a European problem. We’re not there yet and it can seem disheartening at times. Then I remember something my mother wrote, two days after Malta’s last general election: There is something else I should say before I go: when people taunt you or criticize you for being “negative” or for failing to go with their flow, for not adopting an attitude of benign tolerance to their excesses, bear in mind always that they, and not you, are the ones who are in the wrong.

YB: What would you like to be remembered for after your fight for justice?

ACG: I would like everyone to recognize the fight for justice as their own because this isn’t about justice for one family alone. What my mother’s murder represents is a crime against us all - everyone in Europe and beyond, that is - and against the European values my mother fought so hard to uphold.

YB:Is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers and press freedom advocates?

ACG: We all have a stake in seeing that justice is done, and in ensuring that the tide of criminality is turned. Europe needs transnational structures to fight transnational crime and mechanisms to protect journalists and journalism. That is something to keep in mind when campaigning and voting in the upcoming EP elections and when appointing officials and leaders to top posts in Europe’s institutions.

YB: Let me ask you also a personal question, please. What kind of mother was Daphne Caruana Galizia?

ACG: People didn’t really know her private side. She loved our family home and garden. It was a refuge. The worse things got outside, the more beautiful my parents’ home and garden grew.

The weekend before she was murdered, we were at an old house which my wife and I had bought to restore as our home. My mother was there with my brother Matthew, helping me scrape down the walls for repainting. And I looked at her, covered in dust with a trowel in her hand, and tried to reconcile the person before me, my mother, who had infinite time for the most worthless of pursuits as long as they involved her sons, with the journalist who had single-handedly uncovered Malta’s state capture. Two days later, she was murdered.

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