TWO years ago today, Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered by a car bomb, moments from her house in Malta. Two years on, the veneer of democratic norms and accountability in Malta has faded.

This murder should not be treated in isolation. It came after years of threats, antagonisms and attempts to stifle her campaigning journalism. A decade prior to her murder, bottles full of petrol and a stack of car tyres were placed against her living room door and set alight while her family slept. And then there are the defamation threats brought against Caruana Galizia by prominent politicians and business owners that due to the uniqueness of Maltese law, more than 30 have been passed on to her estate, her grieving family. Even after her death, the harassment continues. Almost weekly, memorials to her have sprung up across Valetta, but as soon as they are up, they are destroyed, until they are rebuilt, only to be destroyed again.

The National: Daphne Caruana Galizia Daphne Caruana Galizia

When journalists cannot be protected against violent actions, the only things we as a society can depend on is a robust and proactive legal system to ensure that those behind these actions are brought to justice. But if Malta failed to protect Caruana Galizia two years ago, this failure became the norm as the Maltese state built and fortified barriers to justice. Calls for an impartial and independent public inquiry have endured since the murder and the Maltese state, led by many of those investigated by Daphne Caruana Galizia, refused, hiding behind paper-thin excuses of domestic processes, processes that only cast a partial light on Caruana Galizia’s murder. As identified by The Shift News, a ground-breaking online Maltese news portal that has been leading advocacy for Caruana Galizia’s case, the Maltese state’s lack of urgency in this case cannot be ignored. The Maltese attorney general Peter Grech filed the bill of indictment against three murder suspects just 20 days before the 20-month deadline that could have seen them released on bail. Further to this, after the state’s resistance to a public inquiry, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed a resolution in June 2019, condemning the continued impunity for Caruana Galizia’s assassination and calling for the launch of an independent public inquiry within three months.

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True to form, the Maltese state announced the formation of an independent public inquiry six days before this PACE deadline.

The National: David Pratt and others attend event on press freedom.David Pratt and others attend event on press freedom.

While progress appeared finally to be happening, dissecting the detail of the state’s commitment raised more issues than answers. Following the announcement, the PACE special rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt stated that “the inquiry as currently constituted clearly does not meet the assembly’s expectations”. The terms of reference for the inquiry outlined “the state and state entities” as the focus of the inquiry, but Omtzigt and Caruana Galizia’s family have stated that this focus was too narrow, potentially excluding the actions of political and public office bearers, and others who have “contributed to a general climate of impunity and an atmosphere of hostility”. Further to this, a number of concerns about the make-up of the inquiry have been raised. For example, according to PACE “one member is involved in the related criminal investigation; another is a lawyer who has been retained by the present government and currently represents or has represented at least three subjects of Ms Caruana Galizia’s reporting; and the third holds a discretionary government appointment”.

The National: Malta has faced growing scrutiny worldwide for its defamation lawsMalta has faced growing scrutiny worldwide for its defamation laws

So, under the veneer of progress, the same opacity that Caruana Galizia spent her life attempting to counter, endures and this is on display beyond the inquiry alone. As recently as last Monday, Reporters Without Borders UK bureau director Rebecca Vincent reported from a courtroom in Valletta that a number of defamation actions against Caruana Galizia (and her son Matthew Caruana Galizia) are continuing and the first on the docket was an action brought by Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri. The existence of posthumous defamation threats is unique to Malta and represents a distinct threat to every journalist there. This was highlighted by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic in a letter to the Maltese authorities when she stated: “I believe that the current legal provisions which allow the passing of defamation cases to heirs put journalists and their families at risk and have a chilling effect on investigative journalism in particular.”

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Two years ago today, Daphne Caruana Galizia’s life was taken by the forces that shaped her professional life. Two years ago today, the foundations upon which Maltese democracy was built were revealed to be fragile and liable to collapse. Two years ago today, the forces brought to bear to solidify official secrecy were revealed to be deeply entrenched and potentially immovable. Two years ago today, a journalist was murdered leaving others working to inform the public unsure of their protections and safety. Two years ago today, a family lost a mother, a wife and a sister, and a country lost one of its most defiant and valiant voices.