A Maltese investigative journalist who had reported on key Maltese individuals’ links to offshore tax havens, as revealed in last year’s Panama Papers exposé, was killed on Monday when a bomb exploded in her car.
The journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, was killed shortly after she’d driven away from her home in the town of Mosta, when the bomb went off, media reports said, quoting the country’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, who formally announced the attack in a statement on Monday evening.
No group or individual has yet come forward to claim responsibility for the attack.
Caruana Galizia was described in press reports as having been a popular figure in Maltese journalism circles, having written a regular column for The Malta Independent since 1996, in addition to a blog, called “Running Commentary”.
Muscat family mentioned
Among the Maltese individuals mentioned in the Panama Papers – and included in Caruana Galizia’s coverage of its contents – were the prime minister and his wife, the country’s energy minister and the government’s chief-of-staff, who, it was claimed, had offshore holdings in Panama to receive money from Azerbaijan.
The Muscats have consistently denied they had any companies in Panama.
In a statement on the government’s website posted yesterday, Muscat described Caruana Galizia’s death as a “barbaric attack” that also amounted to an assault on freedom of expression. He said a government meeting on the budget, scheduled for that evening, would be postponed as a result of the news of the attack.
Though Caruana Galizia had been “one of my harshest critics, politically and personally, as she was for others too”, he insisted “every step necessary” would be taken “to ensure the guilty party is brought to justice”.
“This barbaric act… goes against civilisation and all dignity,” he added.
“Instructions have also been made to seek assistance from international security bodies during the investigation…
“I want to make it clear to everyone that I am everyone’s prime minister, and that the strength of our democracy emerges at times like these, where we must be prepared to defend the principles of each and every one of us. In this country, we have the Rule of Law, above all and everyone.
“In this moment of profound sentiment, I am appealing for national unity. This is not the time to discuss the conduct of a person. Everyone has the right to write and say what they want in this country, and those who feel wronged are entitled to protection by the courts and no other remedy.
“I will not rest until justice is delivered in this case, as our country deserves justice.”
Also condemning the journalist’s killing was the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which had published the so-called Panama Papers in April 2016 after obtaining millions of pages of confidential documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The murdered journalist’s son, Matthew Caruana Galizia, is an ICIJ developer and data journalist.
“ICIJ condemns violence against journalists and is deeply concerned about freedom of the press in Malta,” ICIJ director Gerard Ryle said.
“ICIJ calls upon the Maltese authorities to investigate the murder and bring the perpetrators to justice. ICIJ’s thoughts are with the Caruana Galizia family at this time.”