Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, a famous and influential critic of government corruption, was killed in a car bombing on Monday. Galizia’s vehicle, a rented Peugeot 108, reportedly burst into flames shortly after she left her house, and witnesses said they overheard an explosion that sent debris flying into the surrounding fields.
“I am never going to forget, running around the inferno in the field, trying to figure out a way to open the door, the horn of the car still blaring, screaming at two policemen who turned up with a single fire extinguisher to use it,” wrote Galizia’s son, Matthew, on Facebook. “They stared at me. ‘I’m sorry, there is nothing we can do’, one of them said. I looked down and there were my mother’s body parts all around me. I realized they were right, it was hopeless.”
Galizia’s reporting on the Panama Papers, a cache of leaked documents from offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca, had linked Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, and two of his closest aides to offshore companies that the men allegedly funded with Maltese passport sales and payments from the Azerbaijan government. Galizia’s blog, Running Commentary, had become one of the most popular websites in Malta, with daily traffic of up to 400,000 readers — just shy of the country’s total population.
Matthew Caruana Galizia, also a journalist, wrote on Facebook that his mother was killed for exposing the island as a “mafia state” run by “crooks.”
“We are a people at war against the state and organized crime, which have become indistinguishable,” he wrote. He further condemned Prime Minister Muscat, alleging that he “[demonized] and [harassed]” his mother for “over a decade,” and “filled his office with crooks, then the police with crooks and imbeciles, then the courts with crooks and incompetents.”
The government’s attacks on Galizia prior to her murder had been condemned by the Institute of Maltese Journalists as “in contradiction with freedom of the press and free speech.” In February, a court had ordered Galizia’s bank accounts frozen after two government officials filed a libel case against her, claiming that she wrote “fake news.” The magistrate in jurisdiction of Galizia’s case, who had previously sued the journalist over allegations published in her blog, withdrew from the case on Tuesday. A policeman who publicly celebrated Galizia’s murder on Facebook has reportedly been suspended and is under investigation.