Panama Papers Journalist Killed in Car Bomb

On October 16, journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb outside her home in Bidnija, Malta. According to BBC, Maltese officials believe that the bomb was detonated remotely, based on results found in an investigation into an explosion near Mosta. Caruana Galizia was 53 years old and died instantly.

Caruana Galizia was known to be a tough critic of the Maltese government. In her blog, Running Commentary, she accused several politicians of corruption, leading to various lawsuits. Another attempt on her life had been taken 11 years ago, “when burning tyres were set against her [house’s] door,” as reported by NPR. According to Vice, Caruana Galizia’s articles had a regular readership of at least 400,000 people, while the population of Malta is only 420,000.

During her 30-year career as an investigative journalist, Caruana Galizia wrote a regular column for The Sunday Times of Malta, then for The Malta Independent. She also edited and wrote articles for lifestyle magazines. The creation of Running Commentary allowed Caruana Galizia to tackle issues such as Labour Party politicians and officials of the centre-right Nationalist Party. She also reported that Malta’s former European Commissioner, John Dalli, was involved in a scandal concerning lobbying the tobacco industry. He consequently lost his job as health policy chief for the European Union.

Former Home Affairs Minister Louis Galea described Caruana Galizia as, “one of Malta’s most important, visible, fearless journalists,” according to BBC.

Most recently, Caruana Galizia became associated with reporting on the Panama Papers which, according to NPR is, “a massive data leak that exposed the offshore bank accounts of politicians around the world.”

Caruana Galizia, the BBC says, used this information to deduce that the wife of the Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, owned a secret company in Panama that channeled funds from the Aliyev family, which rules Azerbaijan, to Russia. Furthermore, the Panama Papers revealed that Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri, close associates of Prime Minister Muscat, were also involved in the alleged business operations.

According to The Guardian, massive protests ensued, condemning the corruption revealed by Caruana Galizia’s investigations and the Panama Papers. Journalists held a rally in Valletta and claimed they refused to be intimidated by Caruana Galizia’s killing.

Online Editor of the Times of Malta, Herman Grech, said, “The attack on one of us will not stop us from shining a light where others want darkness.”

Prime Minister Muscat and his wife “vehemently denied any wrongdoing.” However, the controversy created by the accusations in Caruana Galizia’s blog were impactful enough for the Maltese government to call for a snap election in June. Though Muscat was at the center of the scandal, the election resulted in his victory.

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

Another target of Caruana Galizia’s “critique,” opposition leader Adrian Delia, claimed her murder displayed “the collapse of democracy and freedom of expression.”

Caruana Galizia’s three sons did not find comfort in Muscat’s words. According to BBC, they refused to endorse a €1m (£890,000; $1,185,000) reward for evidence leading to a conviction in the case. The sons also demanded in a Facebook Post that Muscat resign and that the Malta police commissioner and attorney general be replaced.

According to NPR, one son, Matthew Caruana Galizia, “This was no ordinary murder and it was not tragic. Tragic is someone being run over by a bus. When there is blood and fire all around you, that’s war. We are a people at war against the state and organized crime, which have become indistinguishable.”

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