Punished for success | Godfrey Grima

Malta has been exposed to unprecedented international scrutiny this year, with questions raised about freedom of expression and the rule of law. But for veteran journalist GODFREY GRIMA, much of this international criticism is in part a by-product of Malta’s economic success

2017 wasn’t a particularly good year for Malta’s international reputation. Already in the European limelight over the 2016 Panama Papers revelations, the country was placed under even greater scrutiny in the aftermath of the most calamitous event of the year: the killing of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia by a car-bomb last October. In a sense, it is as though that event forced us all – and the rest of the world – to take a longer and harder look at this otherwise peaceful, mostly uneventful country of ours. Would you agree with the assessment that 2017 was something of a watershed year in that sense?

I wouldn’t say it was a particularly dramatic year. The most dramatic event, of course, was [the murder of] Daphne... we were all shocked; we had all got used to her eccentricities... and the beauty of some of her journalism. She was a very good journalist, there is no question about it.  She touched on issues without the usual manner in which we benignly look at misdemeanours in this country. She didn’t have that attitude at all. She was not half as benign as the rest of us often are in our reaction to things that are normally considered ‘wrong’ in other countries. So she touched a lot of raw nerves. And it’s sad, shocking, that she went the way she did. But there’s also a certain exaggeration going on now, on both sides. The reaction is usually overblown. Nobody can say that Daphne was killed because there is repression of freedom of speech in Malta.  There’s none of that in this country; we’re not like that....

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