Monday October 16, 2017

Slain Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia 'had a lot of enemies,' colleague says

Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed after a powerful bomb blew up a car killing her in Bidnija, Malta, on Monday.

Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed after a powerful bomb blew up a car killing her in Bidnija, Malta, on Monday. (Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters)

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Story transcript

The list of possible suspects in the grisly murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia is very long, says one of her former colleagues.

Caruana Galizia, 53, was killed on Monday when a powerful bomb blew up her car, police said. 

The veteran reporter was best known for her work on the Panama Papers, but she also ran a hugely popular blog in which she relentlessly highlighted cases of alleged high-level corruption.

Herman Grech, the online editor at the Times of Malta, told As It Happens host Carol Off that his former colleague was fearless in who she targeted with her scathing reports.

Here is part of that conversation.

What can you tell us about the bomb that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia?

What we know is she just got into her car, she just drove away for about 100 metres-200 metres, and the car just blew up, basically. It took the police quite a while to actually establish it was her in the car because the body was blown up into smithereens.

So it was a very, very powerful explosion.

It was definitely intended to not maim, but kill.

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Galizia's colleague says the blast that killed her was so powerful there's no doubt it was intended to kill. (Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters)

One of her sons ran out to see and discovered this scene. Do you know how her family members are doing?

Well, obviously, they're all in despair.

People did fear the worst for Daphne Caruana Galizia because of the way she wrote. She was very, very critical of people in government. She basically threw punches and then sometimes dealt very, very heavy blows. She had a lot of enemies.

What kinds of reporting had she been doing about government leaders?

Look, she's been writing for a good 30 years now. She's always been critical of the Labour Party, the centre-left party here, and any of its exponents or forces.

But what's really put her in the limelight in the last year-and-a-half were the Panama Papers. She did a whole exposé of the Panama Papers in which some officials from the government were actually implicated. So that put her in the line of fire.

But, in reality, she was even critical recently of the centre-right party's new leader. She was really having a go at him.

So whoever it was, whether it was a former EU commissioner, whether it was a politician or somebody, just a supporter, she would just go there and get their picture and write things about them in a very fierce way.

I mean, let's be very clear — she was resented by many people. But she definitely had a very, very good pen and she was a good journalist.

Trust me, the list of suspects is going to be very, very high.

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This message was seen on the pavement as thousands gathered for a candlelight vigil in Sliema on Monday. (Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/Getty Images)

There were reports by Maltese television that she filed a complaint to the police a few weeks ago that she was receiving death threats. Did she ever speak to you or your other colleagues about threats she was receiving?

That's the first we heard about it, but I do know she had received threats in the past. She's even written about it that she had been receiving all sorts of threats.

The opposition political leader [Adrian Delia] is calling this a political assassination, pointing the finger toward the government of [Prime Minister] Joseph Muscat and saying that this was the consequence of the collapse of rule of law. What do you say to that?

I can see where he's coming from because, if you look at the trust rates in the institutions here, they've been on a downward spiral. As much as this country's doing well economically, if you look at the trust ratings — police, the army — they don't have much trust from the public.

So what the opposition leader, I assume, was trying to say is that this is the result of things going into freefall and people thinking they can do whatever they want. This is about the fifth or six car bomb in about two years. That is shocking for a small island like this.

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A woman holds a lantern with a picture of Galizia outside the law court in Valletta, Malta, on Tuesday during a protest demanding justice. (Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/Getty Images)

What was she like? What drove her to do this?

According to her, it was just her quest for the truth, about trying to rid Malta of all the corrupt people.

She drew her own conclusions. I might not have agreed with her journalistically, but certainly, whatever she did, this is no way to deal with a vocal critic.

What effect do you think this will have on journalism in Malta? Do you think this will have a chilling effect on those who are trying to expose government?

I mean, this is the brutal murder of a journalist and this is a complete attack on freedom of speech.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more, listen to our coversation with Times of Malta editor Herman Grech: