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Daylight Car Bomb Murder of Malta Investigative Journalist Caruana Galizia Points to Muscat Govt. as Running Regime Akin to Mafia Fiefdom

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By  | 10/17/17, Updated 10/19/17
October 19, 2017

Daylight Car Bomb Murder of Malta Investigative Journalist Caruana Galizia Points to Muscat Govt. as Running Regime Akin to Mafia Fiefdom (Oct. 19, 2017)

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Caruana GaliziaMalta: The murder of a journalist

The brutal murder of Maltese investigative reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia this week casts an unwelcome light on a tiny Mediterranean island nation that many in Europe thought of as a holiday destination — if they thought of it at all.

Now the EU’s smallest country, with a population of less than 450,000, will also be known as the place where a journalist gets killed by a car bomb in broad daylight, and a place where many point the finger of blame for this most unsubtle of crimes squarely at the government.

When Caruana Galizia’s son Matthew, also a journalist, spoke out Tuesday, it was to condemn a “mafia state … where you will be blown to pieces for exercising your basic freedoms, only for the people who are supposed to have protected you to instead be celebrating it.”

“My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong journalists,” Matthew Caruana Galizia wrote on Facebook. Speaking of Prime Malta PM Joseph MuscatMinister Joseph Muscat [R], one of the most frequent targets of his mother’s sharp tongue and even sharper pen, he wrote: “First he filled his office with crooks, then he filled the police with crooks and imbeciles, then he filled the courts with crooks and incompetents.”


Capture     FBI investigate Malta car combing of Caryana Galizia

[ reports that PM Muscat has asked the FBI, currently directing the Las Vegas shooting investigation, to oversee the Galizia car bombing investigation to undoubtedly assure the public of an honest investigation and to quell any 'conspiratorial suspicions' of a high level government cover-up]


Caruana Galizia and I used to work together. She was a columnist at the Malta Independent, where I was a sub-editor and later chief sub (the Britishness of those job titles a reflection of the close ties Malta retains to its former colonial master). She wasn’t averse to criticism of her employer — the paper’s editorial on Tuesday noted that she was “a colleague, sometimes a critic too” — and it was her frustration at the confines of a twice-weekly column that led her to set up a blog, the aptly titled Running Commentary.

Galizia lantern photo

A woman holds a lantern with a picture of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Valletta | Matthew Mirabelli/AFP via Getty Images

Keith-SchembriIt was a gripping read, albeit one that required an in-depth knowledge of Maltese politics and the peccadilloes of its politicians. It paid little (if any) attention to the niceties or rules of journalism: Her final column, published on the day she was killed, had the headline “That crook Schembri was in court today, pleading that he is not a crook” — that’s Keith Schembri, the prime minister’s chief of staff. Caruana Galizia was never able to distance herself from the story, and in all likelihood didn’t want to.

On her visits to the Independent’s office, she cut a rather intimidating figure. It was as if a celebrity had walked in. She rarely stopped to speak, instead heading straight to the editor’s glass office. When her column pinged into our email inboxes the evening before it went out, it regularly elicited “oohs” and “ouches” as she unleashed both barrels on the target of the day.

There can’t have been a soul in the country who didn’t recognize her or have a (strong) opinion of her. In the Venn diagram of Maltese media and politics, she was firmly in the middle.

The Maltese, so the saying goes, carry two newspapers: The one they are going to read (for most, that’s the Times of Malta, though a few of the younger readers prefer the Independent or Malta Today) and the one that shows off their political affiliation — L-Orizzont (The Horizon) is published by the media arm of the powerful General Workers’ Union and pushes a pro-Labour line; In-Nazzjon (The Nation) whose publisher is owned by the Nationalist Party.

Daphne Caruana Galizia arriving at the law court in April 2017 | Matthew Mirabelli/AFP via Getty Images

Malta is an odd mix of Mediterranean easy-going and British uptight, and it takes little time to realize just how divided the island is between Labour and Nationalist. “You’re a Nationalist or a Labour supporter before you’re Maltese,” Mario Thomas Vassallo, who teaches public policy at the University of Malta, told this publication earlier this year. “We are surrounded by politics, you can’t escape it.”

“Malta is the size of a medium-sized city with the attributes of a state,” said Simon Busuttil, a former MEP who stood down as leader of the Nationalist Party after a bruising election defeat to Muscat’s Labour in early June. “You can’t escape politics, nor can politicians escape the electorate.”

It’s inescapable and it can also be nasty. Now, it can also be fatal. According to Maltese media, Caruana Galizia told police two weeks ago that she had received threats. How seriously that report was taken is anyone’s guess but a police sergeant called Ramon Mifsud was suspended Tuesday for posting a message on Facebook in Maltese that ended with two words in English: “Feeling happy.”

Paul Dallison

Paul Dallison, POLITICO‘s slot news editor, worked at the Malta Independent from 2000-2003.


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