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Remarks by Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC at the London Vigil marking 5 years since the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, 16 October 2022

Good evening from London, where we gather tonight to pay tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia and honour her memory, and to stand in solidarity with Daphne’s family and all of you in Malta. This church in London is crammed with supporters who stand with you, 2,000 km away.

Today marks five years since Daphne was brutally murdered in an assassination which sent shockwaves across Europe. Five years to the day since she signed off her last ever blog with the now well-known prescient words which have since echoed around the world, “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”

Daphne was a brilliant, brave, dogged journalist, who honed her craft, her ‘no holds barred’ investigative journalism, shining a light in dark corners, over decades, often sitting at the kitchen table where she spent her last few hours with her eldest son, Matthew.

We have heard today from other speakers about what has happened in the five years since. Make no mistake, much has been achieved. As Roberta Metsola MEP has said, Malta has in many ways been forever altered by what happened. There have been major changes across Europe. We have been forever altered by what has happened. The words of the US poet W.S. Merwin in his poem ‘Separation’ have particular resonance:

“Your absence has gone through me

Like thread through a needle.

Everything I do is stitched with its color.”

Everything for these five years has been stitched with the colour of Daphne’s killing. We have seen resignations in Malta, including the resignation of a Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, in 2019. Arrests and criminal charges, including against businessman Yorgen Fenech, indicted in 2019 for alleged complicity in Daphne’s killing, and conspiracy to commit murder. A 15-year-sentence for Vincent Muscat, a member of the gang that planted the bomb, after changing his plea and providing evidence for the prosecution; and on Friday, after years of delays and attempts to derail the proceedings, we finally saw the two Degiorgio brothers each sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment after admitting to Daphne’s murder on the first day of their trial. And we have seen an innovative public inquiry take place in Malta, and a damning, detailed 437 page report published in August 2021, finding that the Maltese State should shoulder responsibility for Daphne’s death. We have also seen an invigoration of civil society in Malta, a new determination to secure much-needed change.

Much has been achieved. But it is nowhere near enough. We demand full justice – bringing to account through the criminal justice system not only the footsoldiers, but also the masterminds; all those who plotted; all those who obstructed justice. And wider accountability for those who allowed corruption and impunity to fester and grow.

Today, I want to highlight three key points.

First, all that has been achieved has only been achieved thanks to the incredible determination and dynamism of Daphne’s family. Every single achievement has been a fight. Right from the outset, when I first met them in those terrible initial few weeks in winter 2017, they have had to fight for a fair and independent investigation, rather than a process conducted by the very people who were the subject of Daphne’s reporting.

They had to fight through the Maltese courts to stop the then Deputy Police Commissioner, Silvio Valletta, being in charge of the police investigation into the assassination, despite his conflict of interest.

They had to fight through the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to ensure Malta would hold the inquiry it was obliged to undertake by the European Convention on Human Rights.

And they have had to fight revolting slurs and insults, online and whispered on the streets, that somehow Daphne’s family was responsible or Daphne herself was to blame, or that the family were conspiracy theorists for believing what has now transpired to be entirely right.

They have had this fight with many powerful allies in their corner – activists in Malta; the Maltese diaspora around the world, including here in London; international NGOs; EU and CoE politicians, at the highest levels; UN experts; fellow journalists.

But a bereaved family should not have to fight this hard to get the investigation they are entitled to. A bereaved family should not have to fight like this to secure answers, accountability and action. And when a journalist is assassinated, he or she should not have to have a family like this or allies like this to get results.

Second, what happened five years ago today was deeply shocking. But it was not a bolt from the blue. It was not, in truth, a surprise. It was predictable – and Daphne herself predicted it, days before her death. In an interview with the Council of Europe, she described how she had been targeted for three decades: arson attacks on her home, attempts to cut off her income, the freezing of her bank accounts, dozens of libel suits brought by Ministers and business people, misogynistic, dehumanizing, abusive attacks online and in the street, being branded a witch. As we now know, her assassination occurred within a culture of impunity and negative rhetoric directed against Daphne and other journalists in Malta. A signal was given to Daphne’s critics to say she was fair game – and that signal came from the highest levels of Government. As the public inquiry found, the State “created an atmosphere of impunity, generated from the highest echelons of the administration inside Castille, the tentacles of which then spread to other institutions, such as the police and regulatory authorities, leading to a collapse in the rule of law.”

And yet, five years after her assassination, and 15 months since publication of the inquiry’s damning report, there has still been no unequivocal acceptance of the horrors that she faced, let alone an unequivocal apology for it, from Malta. This is disgraceful.

The State also presided over endemic corruption and fundamental structural failures, the very subjects of Daphne’s reporting.

Just one example of delayed action: 5 years to the day before her murder, on 16 October 2012 - 10 years ago today - Daphne wrote about alleged corruption by an EU Commissioner from Malta. And yet, it has taken a decade, until 2022, for that matter to even come to court – and it remains unresolved.

Three months ago, we even heard former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, in an interview with Reuters journalist Stephen Grey, say that Daphne had been killed “at time when she was… becoming irrelevant. Government had survived her most virulent onslaught so for me personally it was almost a time of sitting back, taking the popcorn out and enjoying the show.” These are disgusting comments which should be condemned by Malta’s leaders.

Third, it is fitting that we are gathering today in London. Daphne wrote about London regularly: she wrote for years before her death about money laundering, prostitution and trafficked women in London, with grubby financial links to Malta.

She wrote acerbically and brilliantly about UK politicians and power – see, for example, her gleeful May 2016 blog about a Muslim, Sadiq Khan, replacing as Mayor of London “anti-EU, anti-immigrant, flamboyantly English Boris Johnson.” Or her July 2017 blog on Boris Johnson, then Foreign Secretary, entitled, ‘Never have we needed diplomacy more. Instead we have Boris Johnson.’

But of most relevance today is the fact that many of those threatening legal letters which bombarded Daphne in the final months and years of her life came from London law firms. In September 2017 Daphne wrote about that in her blog, citing Private Eye and pointing to London firms being used to, in her words, “intimidate journalists and other critics into silence.”

And whilst that climate of impunity festered in Malta, the world stood idly by. The UK and other countries across Europe ignored what was happening under their noses, and left Daphne to her fate.

Today, 16th October, is also the anniversary of Desmond Tutu being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1984. He once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” 

Daphne was the mouse. 

Malta was the elephant. 

The world chose then to stay silent. To be neutral. That was in effect a decision to allow Daphne to be trampled underfoot. To abandon her to her fate. In the decades leading up to her assassination, the world failed to act to protect her or hold Malta to account. They failed to act in 2017. Five years on, it is long past time for other States who clam to believe in the importance of freedom of expression – including the UK – to act. They failed Daphne then. Now, they must hold Malta to account and ensure the change Daphne’s family and Malta need and deserve comes to pass.

And whilst that climate of impunity festered in Malta, the world stood idly by. The UK and other countries across Europe ignored what was happening under their noses, and left Daphne to her fate.


civil, international human rights, crimes against journalists, media freedom, impunity, malta, daphne caruana galizia