Murder in Malta: freedom under threat

Silencing of Caruana Galizia a threat to type of law-based societies we live in and our freedoms

Thirty journalists have been killed so far this year, many in conflict zones but also in countries such as Russia, where journalistic probing into the rich and the powerful has become a dangerous occupation.

Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed on Monday in Malta, just minutes after she had left her home having posted her latest, and now last, blog. A bomb on the road was detonated remotely as she passed in her Peugeot 108, which was blown into a field. Her son, Matthew, a journalist with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), heard the explosion from the family home, and raced to the scene where he found himself standing in the midst of his mother's body parts, her car now an inferno. Malta, he wrote afterwards, "is a mafia state".

Caruana Galizia's digging into the leaked documents of the offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca, by way of the ICIJ's Panama Papers project, had revealed what she said were links between senior Maltese politicians and people close to the authoritarian ruler of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. Her claims were disputed but the scandal led to a general election.

Caruana Galizia was an outspoken investigative journalist who made a lot of enemies in the political and criminal worlds of the tiny Mediterranean island. There are many who could be considered to have a motive to want her silenced. But it is the suggestion that her murder was in some way linked to political corruption that is of the greatest worry. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is helping with the murder investigation. This will come as a comfort to the people of Malta, who are justifiably worried about their democracy.


But it is not just the Maltese who should be concerned. We in Ireland, and across the EU, have a strong interest in seeing that those who decided to kill Daphne Caruana Galizia are exposed and punished. Any murder must be met with justice, but the silencing of Caruana Galizia is a threat to the type of law-based societies we live in and the freedoms we enjoy.