Daphne Caruana Galizia a Maltese journalist and Giovanni Falcone an Italian magistrate were blown up in their cars 25 years apart leaving body parts on our conscience. The Maltese and Italian mafia had struck. If the magistrate’s murder raised questions about the Italian mafia in 1992, Daphne’s death in 2017 raises very serious questions about the commitment of the European Union (EU) to fight the mafia within. Now. As it reaches out to India as a trading partner and ally, it has valuable lessons to learn from India’s unsung journalists and lawyers who brave all odds, live in small towns and take on mighty local leadership because they have faith in India as the world’s largest democracy.
Daphne’s story is gut-wrenching. The only other time I felt as outraged and sick to the core was when the Falcone, judge and prosecuting magistrate was killed in 1992. He had fought all his life to overthrow the Sicilian Mafia and his work resulted in a spectacular 1986 – 1987 court case where mafia dons were dragged to courts. Five years later his car was blown up by the Corleonesi Mafia on a motorway, his insides splattered all over. There’s a hierarchy in the Italian mafia’s killing fields like in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. This was a deadly one. Falcone’s travel plans were a tightly guarded secret. It was an inside job. I used to write for the Swiss-French daily Le Nouveau Quotidian and found myself at a loss of words, gutted and diminished by Falcone’s murder. Pigs and cowards had penetrated all aspects of Italy’s political and economic life. Pigs and cowards – everything else I felt is unprintable.
I went through the same revulsion and anger as I re-read in detail about Daphne’s dastardly murder by a Maltese mafia the government pretends does not exist and allegedly is a part of. Her car blew up as she left home and her family had to deal with body parts of a mother who had defied death threats ever since she put pen to paper. I recently read her son Paul Caruana Galazia’s soulful retelling of who his mother was, her fight and her murder. You should too, if you want to understand what investigative journalism really means. Read here.
Daphne’s family wants the perpetrators of her assassination to face justice. The EU has to secure and clear space so investigative journalists can do their work without fear or favour. Daphne’s son Matthew Caruana Galizia is now fighting the numerous cases that were slapped on her over the years even as he pushes the various bodies EU to own up and clean up the mafia within. A journalist and software engineer who with two others founded the International Consortium of Investigative Journalist’s (ICIJ) Data and Research Unit in 2014, he was a lead engineer on six major investigations which included Swiss Leaks and Panama Papers, Offshore Leaks and Paradise Papers. Panama Papers was the result of hundreds of journalists working together worldwide. The effort won a truly deserved Pulitzer.
I had followed Falcone’s work and the spectacular Mani Pulite effort by judges in Milan, the business capital of Italy, that placed hundreds of businesses and their heads under the radar, exposed links between Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi (who was convicted and fled to Tunisia) and the mafia and sent many personalities to jail. His childhood friend from Palermo (the hotbed of the Italian mafia) and judge Paolo Borsellino was also killed in 1992. Antonio di Pietro, a prosecutor in Mani Pulite stood strong. The trio wanted to clean up Italy. I was looking for information and patterns to see if I could learn something for my work investigative work for Bofors in Switzerland and Sweden then because I had traced money trail to Italian middleman Ottavio Quattrocchi, a family friend of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi in the Bofors-India swindle. Paid for by tax-payers in Sweden and India.
You’re alive because Indians are not exactly efficient in killing people abroad, my children told me recently. We laugh and I look around. Increasingly, journalists are open targets. More information and social media have not made them safer. Few if any governments care.
The EU is ill-placed to lecture the world and I say this because I live here for part of my life. Earlier, it couldn’t tell the difference between the death of bribe payers and receivers because in it’s colonies. Now the deaths are closer. Looking the other way when drug dealers and warlords in France and Azerbaijan, Germany and Turkey kill journalists because they are investigating their automatic teller machines and launderettes at the heart of Europe – Brussels. Brexit and arrogance have made the United Kingdom (UK) irrelevant.
Beyond backing jamborees for journalists and making tall statements, issuing meaningless resolutions and back thumping about how they’re not as bad as the Washington or Moscow, the EU’s work is in crafting and claiming new work is derisory. Institutions have to be built every day, with visible acts of leadership and conviction, compassion and understanding. The Eurocrats in Brussels don’t care about dead journalists, no more than Moscow or London, Washington or New Delhi.
Thieves, thugs and drug lords are buying EU passports to have access to EU’s rule-making bodies. China influences the EU’s human rights resolutions through Greece. Malta is now a passport vending machine. All make a mockery of years of justice systems set across the Continent after millions of hours of democratic processes and respect for law, justice, civil society and media. The mafia has deep pockets and long tentacles and they fund some EU countries that have empty coffers. Instead of protecting their hard-earned institutional buoyancy, the latter is succumbing to check books and sloth, cowards and a much more powerful international mafia.
Bad money like bad news moves at the speed of lightning. Both are ruthless, colourless and odourless and kill when challenged. You call sell cocaine in Medellin (Colombia), white the money once in Hong Kong and a second time in the British Virgin Islands (BVi) and introduce it into Europe’s money veins smoothly. Laws can’t keep pace and bureaucracy is outwitted either by accident or desire. The assumption that right-wing governments are worse than the left when it comes to corruption and murder of journalists is spurious. All governments detest investigative journalists. Their first attempts are to corrupt and co-opt and when that fails, they either kill directly or express shock publicly after it was ‘done’.
Daphne and Giovanni had one agenda – truth. They did not wake up every morning to put on a face to meet other faces. Each was driven by passion, professionalism and hard work because they wanted a better world for their children. Investigative journalism is hard work. Cultivating sources, finding documents, corroborating information, fact checking from names to data, numbers to bank accounts, looking out for planted stories and tracing their origin is par for the course. Investigative journalists are people of passion and compassion and they call power to account because they empathise with those who have no platforms and possibilities to speak out. People without voice carry a disproportionate burden of dealing with corruption – the petty daily one and the massive overarching one that destroys faith and democracies, economies and life. Lifelong trust is a critical part of this equation. True investigative journalists are people of impeccable integrity around whom there is not even a whiff of corruption in any form to include money, power, position and doles. They have no conflict of interest either as individuals or through their families. None. Seen or submerged.
Daphne writes her son, wrote Malta’s first political column under her own name and she broke every major political story in the country of 450,00 people. She co-founded a Maltese daily and investigated neo-Nazis, drugs and arms traffickers, presidents, prime ministers and judges. Arson attacks slashed cars tyres and death threats meant her family lived in a war zone at home and outside.
Imagine a mother having to check every day if there was a bomb under her car before driving her children to school. Imagine continuing to investigate and interrogate, question and call out EU inaction from a small country where evil had taken deep roots and was spreading across the world. Imagine doing it single-handedly. I read her story again and again, as a mother. She typed away as her little children tugged at her. The copy couldn’t miss a deadline, the mafia had to be on alert she told her husband. She was one woman standing and the brutal murder of a journalist is a responsibility on the world’s conscience. For me, she lives, shining a light on evil.
(The views and opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Republic TV/ Republic World/ ARG Outlier Media Pvt. Ltd.)