Why the murder of a journalist in Malta sent ripples as far as Canada

CBC senior investigative producer Harvey Cashore had never met Daphne Caruana Galizia, but he felt the impact of the investigative journalist's death when the news began to circulate last week. Cashore was interviewed for this week's edition of The Investigators with Diana Swain.

Daphne Caruana Galizia's death has implications for investigative journalists around the world

Ripples were felt throughout the world when journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a bomb that exploded under her car. In Berlin, candles burn to commemorate her death. (Axel Schmidt/Reuters)

Consider what's happened since Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a bomb that exploded under her car, and you'll get a glimpse into just how influential she was.

In a rare move, Pope Francis sent a letter of condolence to Caruana Galizia's three sons. EU leaders called for a full international investigation into what one termed "an event of unprecedented gravity." Malta's government is offering a $2.2 million reward and full protection for anyone with information on who killed her. And journalists from across Malta held a mass demonstration in the streets to show they will not be cowed by those responsible for the journalist's death.

Such was the influence of Caruana Galizia, who didn't work for a large news media organization. She was most known for her work as an independent blogger. Her daily posts on Running Commentary were sometimes read by more people than read all the nations' newspapers combined.

Caruana Galizia's work was harshly critical of those in power, most especially the country's prime minister, Joseph Muscat, and his inner circle, whom she accused of being corrupt. Her most scathing indictments focused on offshore tax holdings and payments received by Muscat, his wife, and others close to them. Muscat and his wife have denied the claims.

Caruana Galizia was known for her stories about corruption in Malta, a small Mediterranean island with a population of about 400,000. (REUTERS)

Those reports were part of Caruana Galizia's coverage of the Panama Papers, a cache of documents smuggled out of a Panamanian law firm by an anonymous source.

The documents began to be made public in 2015 in a co-ordinated release by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). More than 100 media organizations across 80 countries reported on the documents, and the coverage caused scandals at the highest levels of government in several countries.

CBC News was a Canadian partner in the release of the Panama Papers, and CBC senior investigative producer Harvey Cashore is a member of the international consortium. Though Cashore had never met Caruana Galizia, he felt the impact of her death when the news began to circulate Monday.

"I belong to the ICIJ listserv, and my iPhone started lighting up. And everybody was going, 'What's going on? What's happening?' And literally, all of the members were hearing this news for the first time. And you know, we're all working on offshore stories from time to time, and this was like … this is close to home."

Journalists in the Maltese capital of Valletta staged a mass protest holding signs and newspapers splattered in blood-red paint. (Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters)

The journalist was interviewed for this week's edition of The Investigators with Diana Swain (Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET on CBC News Network).

Cashore has been asked in the past if he considers the work of investigative journalism to be physically dangerous and  has always replied that he doesn't. But Caruana Galizia's death has caused him to reflect on the impact of the work he's doing.

"I don't go to war zones. I don't cover conflict areas," said Cashore. "My work is not dangerous. I always say that. And, for the first time, I felt maybe … we are really affecting people with big secrets, and look what can happen."

Police and others who followed Caruana Galizia's work believe she was targeted for the secrets she revealed, though it's not clear if her murder is connected to a story she had reported or one she was working on that hadn't yet been published.

Cashore says her work, and ultimately her death, illustrate just how much is at stake for those who've illegally hidden their assets.

"They've gone to those offshore jurisdictions to get secrecy, to buy secrecy, and we've been exposing that secrecy, and they don't like it one little bit," he said. "We do our stories, we report, we watch the world react. But now, we're seeing just how far people can go when they don't like our journalism."

While larger journalistic organizations in the consortium — such as CBC, BBC and the Guardian newspaper — routinely provide protection to journalists who request it, independent journalists and those who work for smaller publications have little access to that.

Hundreds of journalists gathered outside the parliament in Valletta, Malta, to protest the death of Caruana Galizia. (Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters)

"We have resources beyond ourselves," said Cashore. "And yet, here was a journalist who was a blogger, had no significant resources, and look who they targeted. And so we're realizing how vulnerable some people can be in this family of ours."

It would appear Caruana Galizia herself realized her life was in imminent danger. She had reported threats to police just two weeks before her death, though details of her report are not known.

Murder in Malta; Reporting on Puerto Rico; 50 Years of 60 Minutes (The Investigators with Diana Swain)

4 years ago
A conversation with CBC News investigative producer about the death of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Plus, a critical look at the coverage of the disaster in Puerto Rico. Watch The Investigators Saturdays at 9:30 pm ET and Sundays at 5:30 pm ET on CBC News Network. 22:20


Multi-award-winning journalist Diana Swain is the senior investigative correspondent for CBC News and host of The Investigators on CBC News Network.