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.
In a lengthy Facebook post published hours after he 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 Matthew 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.
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.
Mr Muscat denounced the killing, calling it an attack “on the freedom of expression in our country.”
Caruana Galizia’s popular blog had also targeted opposition politicians, calling the country’s political situation “desperate” in her final post.
On Monday night, thousands of supporters gathered in the town of Sliema to hold a candlelit vigil in her honour.
Her scathing pen spared no punches
By Herman Grech, Times of Malta online editor
Daphne Caruana Galizia was loved and resented in equal measure in politically divided Malta – but she will go down in the Mediterranean island’s history as one of the most influential writers.
Her uncompromising blog and scathing pen spared no punches, hitting out mainly at exponents of the ruling Labour Party and their supporters, but also sometimes criticising officials of the centre-right Nationalist Party, including its newly-elected leader.
Starting off as a columnist for The Sunday Times of Malta, her colourful reportage saw her embroiled in several legal battles along the years, including Malta’s prime minister.
But beyond all, even her fiercest critics acknowledge she was an impeccable writer and investigative journalist. Her digital cross-investigation into the Panama Papers, which saw the Maltese government’s top officials embroiled, effectively triggered off a premature general election last June.
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.
“We are a people at war against the state and organised crime, which have become indistinguishable.”
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.
Meanwhile, the Malta Independent reports that the magistrate assigned to the case has requested it be taken up by someone else because she had been the target of Caruana Galizia’s writing in the past. Caruana Galizia’s family also requested she be replaced, the newspaper said.