Malta journalist killed in blast

Scribe exposed island nation's links to offshore tax havens

By SEWELL CHAN in London
  • Published 18.10.17
Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia died when the car she was driving exploded in Bidnija, Malta. (Reuters)

London: An investigative journalist in Malta who exposed her island nation's links to offshore tax havens using the leaked Panama Papers was killed in a car bombing on Monday, an attack that shocked Malta and was condemned by leaders of the EU.

The journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, died when the car she was driving exploded in Bidnija, a hamlet in north-central Malta. Her final blog post, accusing the prime minister's chief of staff of corruption, had been published about a half-hour earlier.

Caruana Galizia ran a blog that was so popular and influential that it helped cause a political crisis when she accused Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's wife of benefiting from a secret Panamanian shell company that was used to deposit unexplained payments from Azerbaijan's ruling family.

Muscat, who has denied wrongdoing, called a snap election in June, which his Labour Party won, giving him a second term.

In a statement on Monday, Muscat said he was shocked by the killing.

"I condemn without reservations this barbaric attack on a person and on the freedom of expression in our country," he said in a statement. "Everyone is aware that Caruana Galizia was one of my harshest critics, politically and personally, as she was for others too. However, I can never use, in any way, this fact to justify, in any possible way, this barbaric act that goes against civilisation and all dignity."

Muscat said the national police and security forces had been instructed "to take every step necessary in the investigations" to find whoever was responsible. The leader of the Opposition, Adrian Delia, warned of "the collapse of democracy and freedom of expression", and said on Twitter: "We shall not be silenced."

Another Opposition lawmaker, Simon Busuttil, warned on Twitter: "The rule of law has collapsed. Our democracy is at stake."

Numerous officials condemned the killing. "If journalists are silenced, our freedom is lost," said Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European Commission, the executive arm of EU.

Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, said that Caruana Galizia had "sacrificed her life to seek out the truth".

Caruana Galizia started her journalism career in 1987 as a columnist for The Sunday Times of Malta, but she was best known in recent years for her influential blog, called Running Commentary, which frequently levelled accusations against powerful politicians and business executives.

Her final blog post called the Prime Minister's chief of staff "a crook" and warned: "There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate."

The European edition of Politico, the online news site, recently included Caruana Galizia on a list of 28 people who are "shaping, shaking and stirring Europe". The news site called her a "blogging fury" and a "one-woman WikiLeaks".