This is the text of remarks delivered by Sylvana Debono, President of the Istitut tal-Ġurnalisti Maltin this morning at the Daphne Caruana Galizia protest memorial in Great Siege Square, Valletta.

In 2020 Reporters without Borders ranked Malta in the 81st place in press freedom ranking. This marks a whopping 36-point fall from grace in 7 years. From placing 45th out of 180 countries in 2013, the slide, particularly over the past three years, has been exponential. Three years. That is just about the time this memorial was re-christened.

We stand today on this site, pregnant with meaning. Behind us a memorial to the dead of the Great Siege of Malta, a neo-classical piece by Antonio Sciortino. For the Maltese, this is a national emblem harkening the bravery of our forefathers in the face of incredible odds. Incredible Odds, which, I must stress, they overcame valiantly.

It was therefore about time that the heroic deed carried out in 455 years ago found a more contemporary protagonist. And yet, persistently over time, this site has been cleared and deemed inappropriate. I have always wondered why.

The truth is that there is a consummate ignorance on what Sciortino wrought. The statues represent Faith, Fortitude and Wisdom. For all persons of good-will this is a monument to integrity.

I cannot help smiling wryly. To all those sycophants who were eager to arrive on the strength of their brown nose, the appositeness of having the Daphne memorial here must have not simply escaped them but quite possibly spoken to them in Ultonian. For Daphne had faith. Faith in the truth. Faith in natural justice. Faith in people of common decency. Daphne had the fortitude born of integrity, of commitment to service, of grounded professionalism. And Wisdom? Did She have wisdom?

Well judging by the standards we see about us, where advancement is tied to a congenital lack of spine, where distraction with ephemera is hailed as being positive and where there is talk that the national anthem may be substituted by the song ‘Let it go’…then by those standards, she was not wise for she was the absolute opposite.

Letting it go was not in her creed even if there was nothing in it for her but grief. Neither is it in the creed of my friend and fellow journalist Nello Scavo. Both these persons highlight what journalists go through every day. The insults which like acid drip onto the soul, eroding, daily – witch, bitch and a gamut of dubious accolades. The bullying by keyboard goons, ranging from the quasi illiterate urging you to visit various unsunny locations to the more sophisticated who ask if you remember when…The threats, veiled or otherwise, letting you know that you are in their crosshairs, phone calls late in the evening with a single epithet flung at your ear like an arrow bolt out of the darkness.

Uwejja tgħaġġibhomx.

That is what even friends tend to say. Because we have become inured to a climate of machismo where threatening journalists is not seen as an attack on the fundamental right of freedom of expression. Because we have been Pavloved into learning to shut up. Indeed, we are living in the obverse time of ‘Stand up and be counted’. We are living in the time ‘Shut up so you won’t be counted’. We are living at a time when we are redefining what is right into what is right for me. If I’m all right, Jack, then let the immigrants die, let the crooks plunder and let the murderers get away with it.

And yet what life is that, living like an amoeba?

That is not the life of a journalist. That is not the life we choose. So, to those who seek to anaesthetise the country through fake positivity be warned: we are here. We are watching and we will not give up.

Because she never did.