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Murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia still faces barrage of libel suits

Signs are placed at the gates of the Police Headquarters during a national rally demanding justice for murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta, 22 October 2017
Signs are placed at the gates of the Police Headquarters during a national rally demanding justice for murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta, 22 October 2017

MATTHEW MIRABELLI/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 5 March 2018.

Ten years ago today, Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia launched a blog, Running Commentary, where she chronicled political developments and published extensively on corruption in Malta. The blog quickly took off, eventually drawing 400,000 to 500,000 readers per day, a much higher figure than the circulation of any newspaper in the country.

Through Running Commentary, Caruana Galizia emerged as one of Malta's leading media personalities, and became known for her acerbic wit and relentless and detailed exposure of the misdeeds of the country's rich and powerful. Stories she broke became the central issues in an early general election in 2017. But the popularity of the blog, coupled with her work on the Panama Papers and other investigative reporting, also contributed greatly to the growing pressures Caruana Galizia faced in the run-up to her murder. At the time of her death, there were no fewer than 42 civil and five criminal defamation lawsuits open against her, and she was regularly threatened and harassed, yet she refused to be silenced.

Just half an hour after publishing what was to be her final blog post, Caruana Galizia was killed on 16 October 2017 by a car bomb that detonated as she drove away from her home in Bidnija. Though arrests have been made and three men are set to stand trial upon conclusion of the law courts' compilation of evidence related to the case, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) continues to emphasise the need for full justice in Caruana Galizia's case - that is for all those involved in the planning and the carrying out of the attack to be identified and prosecuted.

RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent is currently in Malta to join a vigil on 2 March marking 10 years since the launch of Running Commentary, and honouring the life and work of Caruana Galizia.

Whilst in Malta, Vincent also monitored hearings on 1 March in 26 libel cases that continue against Caruana Galizia: one case brought by Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat; two cases brought by Minister for Tourism Konrad Mizzi; two cases brought by the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Keith Schembri; one case brought by former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank Alfred Mifsud; one case brought by the head of Malta's 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting task force Phyllis Muscat; and 19 cases brought by businessman Silvio Debono.

Despite the high number of hearings scheduled, there were no substantive developments in these cases on 1 March due to the illness of one lawyer, a request for more time from another lawyer, and the failure of Keith Schembri's lawyer to bring any witnesses to court. One of these witnesses was found to be in contempt of court, and his arrest was ordered to compel his attendance at the next hearing on 7 May. Including these cases, a total of 34 defamation cases continue against Caruana Galizia posthumously. The five criminal cases were closed upon her death.

"We have gathered repeatedly in London to remember the life and work of Daphne Caruana Galizia and to call for justice for her murder, and now it is my honour to join this gathering in Valletta in solidarity with her loved ones and supporters. All those involved in this heinous attack - including the masterminds as well as the perpetrators - must be brought to justice, as any degree of impunity will set a dangerous precedent with implications far beyond Malta," said Rebecca Vincent.

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