The author is not a journalist but as we re-examine the failings of our democratic institutions his words are a reminder that the press too has much to reflect upon:
So there we had it. Malta’s journalists out in force on 19 October in a much publicised show of force and unity, holding a commemoration in Valletta to mark their sorrow at the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. They will not be muzzled, they said. Muzzled? What pray, I asked myself, do this bunch have in common with Daphne? I thought long and hard as I glanced at the faces…. I saw no muzzles. I drew a blank. With one or two exceptions, nothing!
The more I saw, heard and reflected, the more worked up I became. What hypocrisy! Daphne has posthumously been made an honorary member of the journalistic club she never quite felt part of and which had even ostracised her. In her lifetime, she was denigrated as a ‘bicca blogger’, a ‘hate blokker’, a ‘vile blogger’, the ‘queen of bile’ and the witch of Bidnija. Some fellow journalists by her own account displayed hostility and swore at her when she got in touch. She was demonised by Labour for decades and by Adrian Delia and his coterie only this summer in the heat of the PN leadership contest. Both Labour and Delia agreed that Daphne had produced no ‘proof’ on Panama, and was fixated on retaining control of the PN having purportedly seized it years ago.
Delia even attributed this to her crusade against his candidature. Did any part of the so-called independent media speak up? And those from Medialink? Not on your Nelly! Now we know that they were too busy sucking up to Delia enlisting Kap’s support for their Executive Council aspirations, effectively meaning that pretty soon, a posse of ‘journalists’ might well be directly involved in running the Party. If this isn’t a conflict of interest I don’t know what is. Journalism at its best no doubt.
Earlier this year a prominent lawyer petitioned the court to have Daphne declared “not a journalist”! Did any colleague speak up back then in her defence, to state that yes indeed she was one of them? No-one! An eerie silence, the journalistic ‘fraternity’ leaving left her to swim on all on her own as if she needed to prove her credentials when she was by far the best of the lot.
But Daphne was not killed simply because she was a journalist, but because she investigated for all she was worth and spared no effort to uncover the truth even when her investigations led her into one minefield after another. Her constant probing was a threat to the contaminated status quo or omertà that pervades Maltese society. She could have very well been a member of the security services, the police force or the judiciary, a politician, a civil society or equal rights activist; she was all of these rolled into one and more.
Her quest for the truth knew no boundaries, be it to expose into the perverse exploits of public figures in bars and brothels in Malta and beyond, to unearth corruption in the top echelons of government, to delve into the dodgy past of the Opposition Leader, or dive into the murky waters of the underworld in Malta and beyond. If she thought it was in the public interest to reveal something, she dug deep, made enquiries and told us all about it, right down to the minutest detail. She laid bare the maladies in our society that we all know exist and even help to perpetuate.
No dear Maltese journalists, I do not mean to offend you, but you had nothing in common with Daphne. None of us did actually. But in your case you were actually poles apart. On many an occasion, you even took Daphne’s stories and splashed them across your pages as if they were your own, without a hint of acknowledgement. To hear you project yourself as martyrs who are now so pained at having seen one of their own suffer an abominable fate is simply too much to stomach.
Most of you have never ever left your comfort zone of reporting what is officially handed down to you. When you do, you make sure never to tread on the toes of those who call the shots, while the dangerous environs of the criminal world is a no-go zone. At most, you scratch the surface and leave it at that. One of you even boasted never to have been subjected to a libel case throughout long journalistic career – a paragon of investigative journalism no doubt.
Let Daphne’s assassination be the shock to the system Malta badly needs. If we really are well-meaning citizens, we owe it to Daphne to carry her work forward, to leave no stone unturned in the quest for truth. The political system is in disarray. Government has annihilated good governance and the rule of law, while the Opposition has discredited itself by electing a leader who is clearly unfit for purpose.
Civil society is now the only catalyst left for change, and journalists need to follow on, to step up to the plate, take up the cudgels and relentlessly pursue the corrupt villains who have all but taken over what is now a Mafia state. Show us that you have it within you to rise above the mediocrity of the past! No fudging, no double-speak, no innuendo, just delve deep without fear or favour and expose the plain, simple truth for what it is. Co-ordinate your efforts if need be. Let Daphne inspire you. Only then can you credibly claim that Daphne was indeed one of your own.