by Richard Theuma

Whenever I open my web browser, the first thing I normally do is to guide the cursor towards the address bar and type in ‘Running Commentary.’

In spite of myself, I still do this even when I’m conscious that I’m doing it. It’s the first stage of grief: denial. I can’t say I haven’t hovered through the other stages but I do know that I’m nowhere near ‘Acceptance’ – I doubt I’ll ever be.

I should like to be left to grieve in peace, but unfortunately the Government and the so-called Opposition are already trying to take control of the narrative following Daphne’s assassination.

I can think of no better way to honour her memory and what she stood for then by pointing out the hypocrisy and the brass necks of these crooks and hangers-on – and as the most ordinary of citizens, I hope to set an example in this regard.

Let’s start with the Prime Minister: in his sad attempt at statesmanship, Joseph Muscat showed us what he’s all about – during an interview on CNN, Christiane Amanpour made the implication that Daphne’s assassination was connected with her last entry which made reference to Keith Schembri’s crookedness.

"This is a country where rule of law reigns supreme, and I will make sure that justice is done," Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tells me in the wake of the shocking killing of anti-corruption crusader Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Geplaatst door Christiane Amanpour op Dinsdag 17 oktober 2017

Press pause, and ask yourself: what would have happened if a Maltese journalist had made this implication? Exactly, her demonisation over the years by the government and the Labour Party was a disincentive to other members of the press to uphold the same standard of investigative journalism that she upheld, or as she would have put it – pour encourager les autres (to encourage the others).

The implication is fair because it is entirely consonant with this regime’s modus operandi, so a culmination of this sort is well within the range of probability.

But let’s return to the interview and see how Muscat sought to dissuade us of that possibility, he said that in the ‘free world’ harsh criticism towards the government is ‘tolerated’ and drew the OBVIOUS conclusion that that is set against the right of politicians like himself to sue journalists in court. Never mind the chilling effect that has on the free press – free world indeed.

After that, while attempting to suppress a smirk, he basically called her a liar and repeated the spiel about resigning if there’s any truth to the Egrant revelations. Well that ship has sailed.

The Prime Minister also wants to sell us the fiction that the rule of law in Malta reigns supreme. It’s unbelievable, he says this while Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi not only remain at large – but have retained their positions at the expense of the taxpayer:

In other news, the Leader of the Opposition, Adrian Delia has shown us what an upright person he is by committing to drop all the libel cases he instituted against Daphne Caruana Galizia. Where do we start? Is this what the great Messiah of the Neo-PN is made of? It’s not like he had a choice, I mean you don’t have to be a lawyer to know that there need to be multiple parties in a lawsuit of this nature. It’s absurd – the only thing this story did was remind us that the Leader of Opposition isn’t a champion of free speech either because, like that other erstwhile director of a company, which owned a property used for prostitution, the Minister of the Economy, Chris Cardona – he also thinks nothing of opening libel suits to intimidate journalists.

How did it come to this? Well, I think we can all conclude that this would not have happened had Forza Nazzjonali – with its anti-corruption platform – won the election. Daphne would still be around, the Neo-PN wouldn’t exist and we’d be looking at institutional reform. So, does the responsibility lie with the electors? Partly, but no – the primary cause is the abuse of a weak institutional setup by the Prime Minister. Daphne said so herself. This didn’t start with the current police commissioner, Lawrence Cutajar, and the Attorney General, Peter Grech, who are also responsible for this. It started far earlier; in fact, Joseph Muscat is the key reason why John Dalli did not face prosecution over trading in influence, when just a month after Labour won the 2013 election John Dalli felt that it was safe to come to Malta because Muscat had replaced former police commissioner John Rizzo with a supine stooge who ‘decided’ not to take the case further.

It did not stop there of course, Joseph Muscat decided to utilise John Dalli’s ‘experience’ for his own benefit, and he did it publicly. Absolutely shameless, and this is only a microcosm of the constant siege on our institutions during Labour’s regime.

So you see, Muscat has been undermining the rule of law from Day 1, he is the key ingredient, without which none of this would have happened.

Yes, there are crooks everywhere you look and the situation is desperate. People keep saying that we must not give up and that we must keep fighting. And the obvious question comes to mind: How? We cannot depend on the Neo-PN to reinstate the rule of law unless Adrian Delia and his stooges are removed;  and the PD has not yet declared that the coalition is over.

So, what do we do? I don’t know. I have some suggestions which are only meant to start a conversation about active citizenship independent of the partisan platform.

The most obvious suggestion is to stay informed, vet your sources, increase your breadth of awareness – and correct false impressions. Make your voice heard and have an informed opinion. A general rule of thumb is that if you know more about your football team or the ins-and-outs of celebrity lifestyle than you know about your country then you are failing. And don’t limit yourself to singular issues: if all you can talk about is the legalisation of cannabis then you’re playing right into the government’s hands.

If we can learn anything from Daphne, it’s that journalism is a powerful agent that is central to a well-functioning Republic. To that end, I urge everyone to fund independent journalism. Yes, they have failed us many times over but what do you expect, when it pays more to be a party propagandist than to go into independent journalism? Do you expect your grocer to provide you with free food? I should think not.

This next one might sound unorthodox, but we need to get rid of the dependency mindset. One of this country’s great aliments is that we’re always looking to others to solve our problems: Eddie Fenech Adami, Simon Busuttil, Daphne herself, and a lot of others expect the people in power to ‘take care of us’. Even now, people are expecting Daphne’s son to fill the void. I’m sorry but that’s completely unacceptable. No one should bear that heavy burden ever again. It was wrong then – and it would be even more wrong now. It is no wonder that in terms of economic freedom, Malta ranks lower than the likes Kazakhstan and Bahrain. This is why the government and the political parties are always so powerful. To that end I’d urge anyone whose skill-set allow them to transition from the public sector to the private sector to do so. Be as free as you can be and that will guarantee a better environment to exercise your freedom of speech.

Finally – and I fully expect that swathes of people are not going to like this – we must preserve Daphne’s brand of journalism. We can only hope that the independent media can fill the vacuum of investigative journalism, but that’s not enough. In his first reaction since the event, Matthew Caruana Galizia stated that this was an act of war. I agree, and the addressees of that declaration of war are not the Caruana Galizias, but all of us who stand for clean politics.

Your weapons of choice are your smartphones, your internet connections and your social media accounts. If you see a crooked member of state – public people subject to scrutiny by the electorate – take a picture. Post it online, if you want to mitigate the chances of a libel suit then don’t say anything. It’s enough to show them that we’re watching and that we’re not going to let them get comfortable in their own skins because Daphne is gone. If the pen is mightier than the sword then I think it follows that a photograph is more explosive than plastic.

Form clusters and use social media to form your own echo chamber. They’ll tell you that echo chambers are bad, but they’re only bad if you’re unconscious of it, and you’re letting it impair your judgement. To prevent that, don’t ban your opponents but make sure that your network is awash with  like-minded people – at least on the fundamentals.

Running Commentary is an example of this, there was diversity of opinion but she also made sure that the broth wasn’t spoiled by the trolls – and the echo of decency, liberty and justice was present throughout.

If we can do this, I think we could have a solid framework to eventually organise ourselves and to take to the streets on our own as part of a series of peaceful protests (and NOT riots) and to foster an effective attitude for satire.

Whatever we do, I hope we do something – if we don’t, this will surely happen again. Yes, yes it will. In any case, Daphne: thank you for everything  – the record shows, that you took the blows and you did it your way.