Review of “A Death in Malta” by Paul Caruana Galizia – Demonstrating Courage in the Face of Adversity
There are various forms of journalism, including writing articles about TV hosts, exposing famous individuals for their sexual exploits, and conducting in-depth investigations on the future of the healthcare system. There are also journalists who risk their lives to inform the public about corrupt governments. Daphne Caruana Galizia was a brave and outspoken journalist who wrote a powerful message in October 2017, stating, “Do your worst, you tyrants, until your only choice is to hire someone to kill me.”
When Daphne Caruana Galizia sent out her message, a contract had already been placed on her life and her killers were actively seeking ways to end her life. Eventually, they were able to put 400g of TNT under the seat of her car. One of the members of the group, who was on a boat nearby, observed as she drove along the seaside road near her home. The individual then sent a phone message that triggered the bomb. According to newspaper reports, Daphne was killed instantly. However, an eyewitness claims that she was screaming for several seconds before the bomb exploded, and her son Matthew found pieces of her body scattered around the area when he arrived a few minutes later.
What was the reason for her murder? For many years, Caruana Galizia had been exposing corrupt activities by individuals in the Maltese government and their associates, similar to criminal organizations like the ’Ndrangheta, the Camorra, or Cosa Nostra – except that these individuals were in power in an EU country. If you were a warlord from Libya or an arms dealer from Azerbaijan, you could pay money to Malta and receive an expedited EU passport, granting you easy access to any country. The daily revelations on Daphne’s blog and newspaper articles terrified Malta’s politicians, who feared that even more damaging information would be revealed. Finally, a group of Maltese judges investigated Daphne’s death and concluded that Malta was heading towards becoming a “mafia state”. The judges believed that Daphne’s assassination prevented this predicted disaster. Daphne gave her life to protect her country.
Who were the perpetrators? One of them, Vincent Muscat, cooperated with the prosecution and revealed the entire story. Two brothers, George “the Chinese” Degiorgio and Alfred “the Bean” Degiorgio, were tried, eventually pleaded guilty, and received a 40-year sentence. Several others were charged and will face trial soon. The same goes for Yorgen Fenech, a businessman who was in charge of a property and development company called the Tumas Group. He has pleaded not guilty and denied involvement in the murder. Fenech was also a director of ElectroGas Malta and owned an international company known as 17 Black, which was extensively covered by Daphne. In 2016, a year before her death, it was prominently featured in the Panama Papers – a leak of 11 million documents exposing widespread corruption around the world. Fenech was described in the media as a “businessman with ties to the government”. It’s worth noting that he was a close associate of the prime minister’s chief of staff at the time, Keith Schembri. Later on, Fenech openly accused Schembri of orchestrating Caruana Galizia’s murder. Schembri has denied any criminal wrongdoing.
At the time of Daphne’s death, Joseph Muscat was the prime minister of Malta. He was a mediocre politician in his 40s who was eager to please others. The public response to her death was unprecedented, and Muscat, who was the boss of Schembri and a friend of Fenech, ultimately resigned as prime minister and retired from politics altogether. He now lives a quiet life in retirement, stating that the investigation “clearly states that I had no involvement in the murder.” As for the supporters of his political party, one of whom wrote on Facebook after her murder, “Screw her blood. Let her burn in hell,” they are now silent and ashamed.
Paul, the son of Daphne, has written a remarkably truthful and emotionally difficult account of all that transpired. Like his mother and brother, he did not initially pursue journalism as a career, but eventually became a highly skilled reporter. Through his natural and relaxed writing style, he portrays Daphne as a vibrant and flawed woman who was deeply impacted by the topics she wrote about and the dangers she faced. She was truly a remarkable hero, sacrificing her life for her profession and country. For a while, the Maltese people were either puzzled or felt powerless in response to Daphne’s revelations. However, her tragic death changed everything. People would bring flowers and photos to an unofficial memorial in Valletta every day, while authorities would clean it up each night. As it turned out, Daphne’s words were indeed accurate – the government was corrupt beyond redemption. Now, Paul Caruana Galizia has created a new and enduring tribute to his mother: a book that is unforgettable, beautifully written, and profoundly honest.