Galizia, Panama Papers journalist dubbed ‘one-woman WikiLeaks’, killed by car bomb

Daphne Caruana Galizia, the journalist who led the Panama Papers investigation into corruption in Malta, was killed on Monday in a car bomb near her home.

“There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate,” she wrote in her last blog post an hour before her car exploded.

According to Maltese media, Galizia told the police two weeks ago that she had received death threats.

The 53-year-old was killed near her home in Bidnija, a village in northern Malta, where her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful explosive device that blew the vehicle into several pieces and threw the debris into a nearby field.

Galzia was a blogger whose posts sometimes attracted 400,000 readers a day, out of the Malta’s population of 420,000, having more readers than the combined circulation of the country’s newspapers.

She was described by the Politico website as a “one-woman WikiLeaks”.

She began her career as a columnist with the Sunday Times of Malta in 1987. She later became Associate Editor of The Malta Independent.

She had relentlessly accused various Maltese politicians and other officials of corruption in her popular Running Commentary.

Her most recent revelations pointed the finger at Joseph Muscat, Malta’s Prime Minister, and two of his closest aides, connecting offshore companies linked to the three men with the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the government of Azerbaijan.

Over the last two years, her reporting had largely focused on revelations from the Panama Papers, a cache of 11.5m documents leaked from the internal database of the world’s fourth largest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca.

The data was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with media partners around the world by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington.

REACTIONS TO HER DEATH

Several organisations and individuals have expressed shock over her murder and called for justice.

ARTICLE 19, a non-governmental organisation that defends freed of information and expression, called for a full, independent and speedy investigation into the murder of Galzia.

It described her killing as an alarming attack on press freedom, saying the perpetrator must be brought to account and measures taken by the Maltese government to further secure the safety of journalists following this attack.

The Guardian reports that the European Commission said it was horrified by the murder, praising the journalist for her “dedication to the truth” and pioneering investigative work.

“The right of a journalist to investigate, ask uncomfortable questions and report is at the heart of our values and needs to be guaranteed at all times,” it said.

At a meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday, Matti Maasikas, Estonia’s EU Affairs Minister, said: “The killing is an unacceptable assault on the freedom of speech and democracy; the perpetrators must be brought to justice.”

Asked whether the EU should investigate the rule of law and alleged corruption in Malta, Maasikas said it was a matter for the EU executive.

In a tweet, Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission, said he was “shocked and outraged” by the murder. “If journalists are silenced, our freedom is lost.”

Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of the murdered journalist who is also an investigative reporter, said his mother was killed for exposing corruption.

“My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it, like many strong journalists,” Matthew wrote in a moving and at times graphic Facebook post.

“But she was also targeted because she was the only person doing so. This is what happens when the institutions of the state are incapacitated: the last person left standing is often a journalist. Which makes her the first person left dead.”






     

     

    Prime Minister Muscat said “everyone knows Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine, both politically and personally, but nobody can justify this barbaric act in any way”.

    He tweeted that it was “a spiteful attack on a citizen and freedom of expression” and vowed that he would “not rest until justice is done”.

    She is survived by her husband and three sons.

    About 3,000 people honoured her in a candle-lit vigil in Sliema, near the capital Valletta, the night after she died.

    Chikezie can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @KezieOmeje

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