Daphne Caruana Galizia was revered on the tiny archipelago of Malta. At times, her voice seemed like the lone check against a sea of corruption and in that respect she was relentless which made her some powerful enemies.
On Monday, she closed out her blog with the line “there are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.” A half-hour later she went for a drive.
Her son heard the bomb go off. He ran to the scene only to find his mother’s car ablaze in a field. The “one-woman Wikileaks” of Malta was dead.
No one can remember another reporter getting murdered in Malta. It’s a tiny archipelago south of Italy, known more for its beaches and historic forts than crime. But Caruana Galizia was relentless in her reporting, convinced that the most powerful men in her country had squirrelled away millions in tropical tax havens.
As journalists, we’re aware that the stories we report on will make some people angry. It comes with the job. But it’s becoming more and more evident that the line between anger and violence is getting blurred. We hear about political journalists getting murdered in Turkey, Russia, the Philippines and Mexico far too often. But Malta?
A decade ago, I did a couple of tours reporting in Afghanistan. As a foreign journalist I was well aware of the target on my back. We trained for it and every decision we made took that into account.
One day in 2008, I lined up an interview with the father of a couple of children who were killed in a tragic incident involving Canadian soldiers. My fixer, a local who arranged interviews and acted as my translator, told me local warlords had guaranteed my safety for the trip into the Nakhonay triangle, which is one of the most dangerous places on earth.
Something didn’t feel right and I politely declined.
As war correspondents, we knew there was risk with every story. We went on patrols, drove in convoys that were the targets of suicide bombers and put on disguises to move around more easily when the military wasn’t around. Coming home we were supposed to feel safe.
How our jobs have changed.
We started seeing it a few years ago when Rob Ford was in power. There was no threat to our lives but the vitriol that emanated from the former Toronto mayor’s office was telling. He called us maggots and liars for reporting on his use of crack cocaine. Eventually, he admitted the truth.
Then Donald Trump entered the political ring and everything changed.
Like Ford with his “stop the gravy train” campaign, Trump ran on a simple premise – “make America great again.” It was brutally effective. And when he got into the ring at one of his rallies his supporters ate it up.
It was a great story to cover except for one aspect: his supporters didn’t like being questioned on what it meant. Because if Trump knew, he wasn’t telling them. And when the scandals started to follow him around, his supporters didn’t run away, they circled their hero. The enemy was very clearly the press.
At one rally in Buffalo I was trying to talk to a few Trump supporters about why they supported him and it became clear that they were prepared to go beyond name calling. They were aggressive, and demanded to know if we were right or left-leaning journalists. That pack mentality has followed Trump around for his entire presidency.
Daphne Caruana Galizia should have been allowed to do her job. It served the people of Malta to know what type of politicians they had elected. Sadly, she lost her life in the pursuit of truth in a time when the gap between the haves and have nots has never been greater.
We need more investigative reporters like her.
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