Maltese government removes tributes to Daphne Caruana Galizia

Maltese authorities removed flowers and candles left to commemorate the assassinated blogger, citing security concerns.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
Maltese government removes tributes to Daphne Caruana Galizia - NewsMavens
Candles and photos. Photo: Daiva Repeckaite

Why this story matters:

"We dare you to remove the memorial we are building tonight!" Pauline Ades-Mevel, head of RSF’s EU-Balkans at Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said to Maltese authorities at a rally to mark the anniversary of the assassination of blogger and journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. And yet they did.

RSF was part of a mission of press freedom organizations to assess the progress in the investigation into her murder and the general climate for the freedom of expression."Unfortunately, Malta is in line with international trends," Courtney Radsch of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in the mission's press conference, noting the fact that in 9 out of 10 cases the masterminds of journalists' murders are never found. However, she also pointed out that within 1.5 years, it is the second time CPJ goes to a mission to a functioning democratic country (the other being the US) -- something they never had to do before.

Activists frequently place flowers and candles in front of the Courts of Law, at the foot of the Great Siege monument, considered by many to be a masterpiece in Maltese sculpture.

The minister of Justice, Culture and Local Government (yes, all these things in one) Owen Bonnici told Maltese media that removing these objects and fencing off the monument are required to clear stains on the foundation of the monument and to make sure restoration works can proceed safely. However, no restoration works can be observed, and the government has declined to provide a timeline of how the works will proceed to the media.

For many, the quest to remove these items reads as a part of a post-mortem vilification campaign.

At the rally, a representative of the International Press Institute said that not even in Putin's Russia would the government remove a memorial to a slain journalist so many times. This year, authorities in St-Petersburg attempted to block the annual commemoration of Anna Politkovskaya at the Solovetsky stone, but had to give way after an ombudsman's interference.

Details from the story:

  • Daphne Caruana Galizia died in a car explosion on 16 October 2017. Days later, journalists from various media organisations gathered to a rally to demand justice and proclaim that they will not be silenced. They laid flowers, banners and candles at the memorial's foot in front of the courts as a symbolic means of pressure to the justice system.
  • This was the third car bomb in Malta that year, and 26 of the 28 cases of bomb explosions since 2003 remain unresolved.
  • The place became a site of monthly rallies, where activists and opposition Nationalist Party politicians get to speak. In the rallies, speakers demand investigation not only into the murder, but also into the nepotism and corruption she exposed.
  • Although there were attempts by individuals to clear the flowers, candles and banners, the first systematic destruction of the memorial happened in preparation for commemorating the anniversary of the Great Siege, which is September 8.
  • Ever since, the makeshift memorial disappears at night.
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