Europe

Malta journalist death: Caruana Galizia's son hits out

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Media captionDaphne Caruana Galizia was a pillar of Malta's democracy, her friend says

The son of an investigative journalist killed in a car bomb attack in Malta has denounced what he called the country's "mafia state".

Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, died in an explosion shortly after she left her home in Bidnija, near Mosta, on Monday.

She was known for her blog accusing top politicians of corruption.

"My mother was assassinated because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it," said her son Matthew, who was close to the blast.

The head of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajini, called for a full investigation.

"To kill a journalist it is incredible in 2017 with a bomb, it is incredible," he told the BBC. "Why kill a journalist? Probably because the journalist was close to one important point."

Caruana Galizia: Malta's anti-corruption warrior

In a lengthy Facebook post published hours after Matthew Caruana Galizia attempted to save his mother from the burning vehicle, he accused Maltese police of incompetence and the government of "impunity".

"When the institutions of the state are incapacitated, the last person left standing is often a journalist," wrote Mr Caruana Galizia, who is also a journalist.

He also took aim at Malta's projected image as a liberal Western nation.

"Yes, this is where we are: a mafia state where you can now change your gender on your ID card (thank God for that!) but where you will be blown to pieces for exercising your basic freedoms," he said.

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Image caption Daphne Caruana Galizia was one of Malta's best-known journalists

A government spokesman, Kurt Farrugia, denied the government operated with impunity, and promised a "very tough" and thorough investigation.

Panama Papers

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of the government and effectively triggered an early election this year by publishing allegations linking Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to the Panama Papers scandal.

Mr Muscat and his wife denied claims they used secret offshore bank accounts to hide payments from Azerbaijan's ruling family - and he was returned to power in the election, despite the controversy.

Caruana Galizia's popular blog had also targeted opposition politicians, calling the country's political situation "desperate" in her final post.

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Media captionDebris was strewn over the road and a nearby field

After her death, Mr Muscat denounced the killing, calling it an attack "on the freedom of expression in our country."

In other developments:

  • Wikileaks founder Julian Assange offered a €20,000 ($23,500) reward for information leading to a conviction.
  • The European Commission condemned the murder, calling her "a pioneer of investigative journalism in Malta".
  • The Malta Independent says that a magistrate assigned to the case requested it be taken up by someone else, because she had been the target of Caruana Galizia's writing in the past.
  • The Times of Malta reports that a police officer who celebrated Ms Galizia's murder in a post on Facebook has been suspended and is under investigation.

In his statement, Matthew Caruana Galizia said he would never forget "running around the inferno in the field, trying to figure out a way to open the door".

"This was no ordinary murder and it was not tragic. Tragic is someone being run over by a bus. When there is blood and fire all around you, that's war," he wrote.

He is a developer and data journalist at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The organisation, which won the Pulitzer Prize this year for its work on the Panama Papers, said it was shocked by Caruana Galizia's death, and "deeply concerned about freedom of the press in Malta".

Police have opened a murder inquiry and Malta has asked for international assistance - including from the FBI - with the investigation.

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