The interview was published this morning by La Repubblica. It is part of Saviano’s TV show being shown tonight.

The link to the interview (in Italian) is here.

I will just translate a line Paul Caruana Galizia says that struck me because of many conversations I have had the last few days with people who ask me if I see the point of fighting on when things feel so hopeless:

“A part of you obviously just wants to go away and forget your country forever. Especially since your country is so closely tied to a traumatic event. But there’s another part of you that says ‘why should you give up? Why should you give your country up to them?’ I know that even our mother saw it that way. It’s easy to say: ‘The country is lost. Let’s forget it and turn the page’.”

And just because it’s easier, does not make it the better choice.

30.11.2018 08:11

A reader kindly provided this translation of the La Repubblica report of the interview.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, Roberto Saviano’s interview with the children: “Mum was killed more by dirt than by TNT”

The writer’s meeting with Matthew, Andrew and Paul, who for the first time talk together. All three have left Malta. And they explain how the journalist’s murder foretold: “Now they want to erase her memory”


Daphne Caruana Galizia died gradually. Before the TNT she was  defamed and discredited, and finally isolated. This is often how critical voices are annihilated. It was the technique used against dissidents even by Mussolini, who sent a telegram to the prefect of Turin on the 1st June 1924, recommending that he pay the utmost attention to Piero Gobetti to “make this insolent opponent of government and fascism’s life difficult again”. Make life difficult for opponents. It is the eternal rule of all power. I talk about it with the sons of Daphne, Matthew, Andrew and Paul. They have never released an interview together before: it is as if they had divided between them the task and responsibility of speaking about the mother, of deepening the narrative that led to the murder of Daphne. Three youngsters around the age of thirty, each with their own individualities and experiences, who have chosen very different careers and are now living in different countries. Meeting them together, however, I find three extremely close-knit brothers: from the way they talk, they smile and understand each other, one realises that the mortar that keeps them so united is not pain, but their brotherhood – in its deepest etymological meaning – that enables them to confront this anguish together.

Matthew, the oldest, was the first person to rush to the site of the explosion on October 16, 2017. I ask him to tell me that day.

Matthew: “That morning, at some point, my mother received a phone call and said she had a bank appointment, I heard her go out and head for the car. But, after one, perhaps two minutes, I heard her come back in. She had forgotten  cheque book. She picked up the cheque-book and I remember she left. I remember the sound of her footsteps as she walked away. I heard the car door closing. And then when she started the engine and left. And not long after, it would have been thirty seconds or so at most, I felt the explosion and I leapt out of the chair, because immediately I understood what the roar meant. I sprang out and began running until I got right on to the scene. All that I remember is that I was completely alone, there was no one else around me, there was only the noise of the burning trees and the sound of the fire around a gigantic column of smoke, but the car was not there, I could not see it. That is, there were pieces of the car scattered on the ground, but I could not see anything else. Then I looked at the column of smoke, I followed it to the base, and at the foot of that tower I saw a ball of fire. Only then did I realize that it was the car. Something had happened to the paint, as if it had melted, the few pieces I could see in the flames seemed white … The car that my mother had rented was dark gray. And while I was running around the car trying to figure out what to do, I saw the first two letters on the plate and thought: “No, it can’t be some else’s, it can’t be, it must be my mother’s car”. I looked through the window, but I only saw fire burning, there was nothing else. It was very strange, I expected to see something, but there was nothing, just flames and fire. It looked like a war scene, not just because of the fire, but because of the way the murder was planned, how it was put into action. The war had suddenly become real. I felt completely helpless, there was nothing I could do. The worst feeling I’ve ever experienced, that of feeling completely helpless”.

My constant thought, living life under the threat of a death sentence, is to understand if the end comes gradually to the individual, eroding a little bit of life day to day, or if it comes suddenly, in a moment of serenity in which she believed that she had circumvented the danger, at a time when she thought she now had to endure only political, not physical/ military-style attacks. For this, I ask if any one of them had ever contemplated the possibility of such an attack. And their answers show all the fragility of the human being in front of a situation of this kind.

Andrew: “We’ve always considered it a possibility, but then you convince yourself that it’s not like that: things like that had never happened in Malta, we didn’t have any reason to fear that this could really happen, but in reality we didn’t want to accept this possibility. We were convinced that for her opponents it was enough to try to ruin her economically, to ruin our lives in other ways. Our mother was also the subject of an formidable investigation by the tax authorities, so at that point, frankly, they were so close to their goal: ruining her economically , that killing her seemed almost superfluous, because it was practically no longer necessary because they had already managed to marginalise her and destroy any possible form of public support, but obviously, in hindsight, the escalation to the conclusion seems evident “.

Paul: “We all grew up convinced that, sooner or later, it was only a matter of time, something bad would happen, because we had already suffered arson attacks, bomb threats, death threats, our father was persecuted in retaliation, for what our mother had written, the three of us have been targeted, so we’ve always thought something might happen, but it’s a thought that you suppress, inside you, because it’s too terrifying.”

Matthew: “And anyway, how do you keep yourself at the ready? Stop driving the car? Not going out anymore? Going around in a bulletproof vest? Do you carry a gun? How do you go about it?

Daphne was the first journalist to write about politics in Malta without using a pseudonym. His inquiries dealt with the issue of corruption – she shed a steady light on offshore companies attributable to Maltese politicians, on the programme for the sale of citizenship, on procurement for gas supply – and had also come to involve the leaders of the Maltese government. Over the years, she had suffered threats of all kinds: from intimidating messages to incendiary attacks, to the killing of her dogs on the doorstep. In a democratic system, when a journalist is threatened, when an intellectual risks his life for what he supports, the state puts him under protection. Protection is a security apparatus with which the State protects a fundamental element of its democracy, that is, freedom of expression. Therefore, to defend a person at risk means to reiterate that we are willing to defend freedom of expression. But in the case of Daphne, that dangerous short circuit had been realized, for which the institutions that were called to defend it were the same ones that she had accused in her investigations and that, therefore, she felt threatened by her. Daphne was an easy target because she was isolated, and the institutions themselves contributed to creating this isolation, as her children explain:

Paul: “Our mother’s problem has always been to have nobody to turn in. For almost all of her career, but especially in the last four years, those very authorities, created precisely to protect people like my mother – and the citizens, in general – from these type of threats, they were among her main persecutors. The police, for example, more than once unjustly accused her of things that did not exist. This even included  simple fines for parking in prohibited places, or for speeding, which then they all turned out to be unfounded in court, but anyway, the feeling was that she did not have anyone, that she was completely alone. Symbolic security measures were taken, like putting a single policeman in front of our house during elections, when the climate became particularly tense, but this did not guarantee complete protection. Now, after she was killed, there are policemen on guard in front of our house, so my father lives under police protection. But this does not comfort us, it does not reassure us.”

Andrew: “One of the most effective forms of protection for journalists is that the authorities take the news that they spread seriously . We have observed this phenomenon not only in Malta but also in Slovakia, in the Western Balkans, where, often, the worst threat to journalists is the fact that the police do not investigate the cases they denounce. This creates a climate of impunity, where criminals can deal with a problem themselves, directly targeting journalists.”

Andrew gives a very good description of the actual dynamic for attacking a journalist. For governments it, means a solution to the problem that the journalist is iinvestigating. Eliminate the speaker and you will have eliminated the problem. This is the effect of the total media-isation of facts: if a fact is not reported, it does not exist. Therefore, it is sufficient to isolate those who report it, discredit it and, consequently, destroy it. One of the ways that Maltese politicians used to discredit Daphne was to publicly threaten to take away even the slightest protection they had provided. Daphne Caruana Galizia’s protection had become a topic of debate in Parliament.

Matthew: “Some members of Parliament considered protection to be a sort of status symbol, which they did not want our mother to have. In my opinion, they looked on this protection, in a sense, as legitimizing her person and what she represented. Therefore, if they succeeded in denying it, they would have also discredited her, which, of course, corresponded exactly to their ultimate objective. This, too, was in fact a form of vexation, because exposing a journalist to the judgment of Parliament and public opinion constituted a form of aggression that does not happen in a normal democracy. There were parliamentary questions, such as: ‘Can the Minister of Home Affairs inform the House how much money is being spent for the protection of Daphne Caruana Galizia?’ And they were asking these questions even in the moments when my mother did not enjoy police protection, just so as to give the impression that the state was still spending money to protect her, for a service that she did not deserve.”

Andrew: “On the part of politicians, the topic was often expressed in these terms: ‘Why should the state pay to protect those who criticize the state? They should be thankful to state!’ Therefore, protection was not considered a right, but a favour granted by the state, a favour that certain ungrateful citizens should not benefit from.”

It is a simple and widespread argument that Andrew describes: if you criticize the State, if you criticize your Country, then you cannot enjoy its protection. A very dangerous argument, because it inevitably leads to blackmail: “if you want it [protection], you must show gratitude towards the State”, and this is concept which is far from democratic. Publicly questioning the need for protection – and reducing it to a mere financial debate – had the effect of bringing public opinion to question the very object of protection: Daphne, the benefit of her work, the veracity of her words. Discrediation and consequent isolation have always served as the antechamber of every execution. It always worked like this. Daphne was called “the witch” by politicians, journalists and ordinary people, she was accused of tarnishing her Country for personal gain. And the defamation has not abandoned it even now that she is gone.

Paul: “All the people she had been investigating have now started a process of erasing her memory and discrediting her work.” These people now claim that her murder was simply the work of a criminal gang, which, curiously, has nothing to do with the focus of her work, which was corruption at the highest levels of the Maltese government and the State. They are trying to completely dissociate her work from all its political implications.”

To cover up the idea that Daphne was killed for her work, for her investigations, they spread about a rumour was that her husband Peter had a lover, an extramarital affair, and that therefore he may have had a motive for the murder. In perfect mafia style, one way to  invalidate the murder of a journalist is to represent it an irritating extramarital affair. From Giancarlo Siani to Pippo Fava, from Don Peppe Diana to Rocco Chinnici, after killing them, the criminal organizations tried to spread the word that they had been eliminated for sexual motives, an vendetta by an outraged spouse or as a result of murky business. They did the same with Daphne, who, in life,  had been transformed into a national scapegoat: it was as if all Malta’s problems existed because of her, she who was spoken of as her Country’s enemy. That’s how it was put across.

Obviously, I have a totally different supposition, which is that Daphne loved Malta, and this is precisely why she brought these contradictions to light. Hers was a critical voice, and she could afford to be so because she wrote on her own, independent blog, Running Commentary, which was among the most widely read information sites in Malta. One detail struck me: Daphne was able to finance the work for the blog thanks to the revenues of a monthly magazine dedicated to gardening and cooking, Taste & Flair, which she herself directed. This might seem a sector far removed from the themes involved in her investigations, but in reality it is as if the blog and the magazine were two declinations of a single objective: try to enhance things, try to make them more beautiful.

In addition to discrediting her, they also tried to destroy her economic independence. Many of the people who were the subject of her investigations had sued her for defamation and, in one case, a minister had also requested and obtained a preventative court order for her current accounts to be frozen. When she left home on the morning of October 16th, she was just going to the bank with her husband’s cheque book, which she had to rely on even for the smallest daily expenses, since she could not access her own money. In her lifetime Daphne had 47 active civil and criminal lawsuits, of which, despite her death, 34 of them are on-going and which her family members now have to assume respobsibility.

Since childhood, Matthew, Andrew and Paul have endured slander, threats to their family, attacks on their home, until they had to live through the greatest tragedy that they could experience: their own mother’s murder. For this crime they have not yet obtained justice: more than a year later, only three people were arrested and charfed with being the material perpetrators of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, but the master-minds, those who decided and wanted her death, they are still unknown. All three boys have left their Country, their family and had to go and live abroad, because that’s what they were advised to do after the murder of their mother. As was the case with Daphne, today, they too are often accused of being  enemies of Malta, just because every day with their testimony they remind the world that Daphne was killed in a European country for her words. And yet, notwithstanding everything, when I ask a question about their possible future in Malta, they answer me:

Paul: “A part of you obviously wants to leave and forget your land forever, especially since it is linked to a traumatic event, but there is also another part that says ‘why should you ever give up? Why should you leave it to them?’ I know that even our mother saw it like that: It’s a little too easy to say: ‘The country is now lost, let’s forget it and turn the page.”

Matthew: “Our country has changed radically, the society we grew up in was completely different, but I want to go on hoping that it is possible to turn the clock back, that it is possible to heal this society. It’s sick, it’s destroyed, but it can be cured. Perhaps not in a single generation … but eventually it will heal “.

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Mario Calabresi