The Shame of Valletta 2018, European Capital of Culture

April 16, 2018

Six months ago, at three o'clock in the afternoon, Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese investigative journalist died when the car she was driving exploded and killed her instantly. Her remains were found by her son Matthew, who heard the blast from their family home. He wrote on Facebook: ‘I looked down and there were my mother’s body parts all around me.’  


Politico, the American journalism company, described her as one of  ‘twenty-eight people who are shaping, shaking and stirring Europe.’ Daphne was fifty-three years old when she was murdered - and her death sent shock-waves throughout the EU. Her assassination was ordered in direct response to her journalistic work in exposing rampant government corruption at the heart of the EU. She was the first journalist to report on the so-called Panama Papers, that detailed the financial affairs of the rich, the famous, and the infamous.


Much has been written about her life and death – but how much is known about how her memory has been treated in Malta since that fateful afternoon. A memorial in her honour, created in response to this horrific event, has been repeatedly destroyed and the Maltese authority have made no effort to protect it.  Banners demanding answers to her death have been removed and it has become cruelly apparent that her memory is being derided by many in high places. 'Political partisanship has clouded the issue to the point where her vilification has become trendy and those who protest and call for justice are ridiculed,' wrote one of her friends, who is still deeply shocked by the manner of her passing. 


Today, PEN International appealed to the EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to address this issue. The following letter - signed by many Irish writers, and writers around the world who are appalled by this treatment of a courageous journalist - has been widely published in print and social media today.


The Shame of Valletta 2018, European Capital of Culture


Dear President Juncker,

Dear Commissioner Timmermans,

Dear Mr Magnier, Director of Creative Europe,

CC/ Commissioner Vella,


We write to you on the six-month anniversary of the brutal assassination of our colleague, Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta’s foremost investigative journalist, to express our profound concern with developments in Malta in the context of the investigation into her assassination, and in particular regarding the behaviour of the management of Valletta 2018, the European Capital of Culture.


The assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia was ordered in direct response to her journalistic work in exposing rampant government corruption at the heart of the EU. Since her death, we have witnessed with horror the repeated and aggressive destruction of the memorial to Daphne Caruana Galizia in Valletta, which was created in response to this horrific event. The Maltese authorities have not attempted to protect this memorial. In particular, we are outraged by the comments of Jason Micallef, Chairman of the Valletta 2018 Foundation, and as such the Capital of Culture’s official representative in Malta. Since her assassination, Micallef has repeatedly and publicly attacked and ridiculed Daphne Caruana Galizia on social media, ordered the removal of banners calling for justice for her death and called for her temporary memorial to be cleared. This is far from appropriate behaviour for an official designated to represent the European Capital of Culture, and in fact serves to further the interests of those trying to prevent an effective and impartial investigation into Caruana Galizia’s death.


Creative Europe’s mandate is the support and promotion of culture and media in the region. European culture includes the freedom to criticise, satirise and investigate those in power. The role of the Chairman of the European Capital of Culture should be to safeguard this right, not to threaten it. We believe this behaviour completely demeans the role and has profound implications for the integrity of the programme as a whole. There can be no tolerance for the ridiculing of the assassination of a journalist in the heart of the EU, especially from the very authorities entrusted to promote the EU’s media and culture. We therefore urge you to immediately investigate these allegations against Jason Micallef. If found to be true, we urge you to call for his resignation and for the appointment of a qualified individual who demonstrates the requisite integrity for this role.


Further to these specific concerns relating to Valletta 2018, we wish to restate our broader fears relating to the ongoing investigation by the Maltese Authorities into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia,which we believe does not meet the standards of independence, impartiality and effectiveness required under international human rights law. The very same individuals Caruana Galizia was investigating remain in charge of securing justice in her case, despite a judicial challenge in Malta’s constitutional court from her family, who has now been completely shut out of the assassination investigation. We therefore welcome the initiative of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, which is taking the extraordinary step of sending a special rapporteur to scrutinise the investigation.  


It is also of enormous concern to us that, even after her assassination, senior government officials, including the Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, are insisting on trying thirty-four libel cases against her, which have now been assumed by her family. In addition to these cases, the Prime Minister is taking a further libel case against Caruana Galizia’s son, Matthew, himself a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist. We have reason to believe that these proceedings are in direct reprisal for his mother’s work in investigating corruption within the current Maltese government. The Prime Minister is currently compelling Matthew to return to Malta to stand trial, despite independent security experts advising Matthew to remain outside Malta due to substantial threats to his life there.


Whistle-blower Maria Efimova was one of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sources on corruption within the disgraced Malta-based Pilatus Bank. The Maltese authorities filed a European Arrest Warrant for Efimova after she was forced to flee to Greece with her family. On 12 April, a Greek court refused Malta’s request to extradite Efimova on the grounds that the charges brought by the Maltese authorities against her are “vague”. Despite this, the Maltese authorities have not dropped the charges against Efimova. We believe the charges against Efimova to be purely political and are deeply concerned about both her safety and the independence of the legal process she would face should she return to Malta.


We urge you to take a stand in support of calls for justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia and for the protection of journalists in Malta.


We look forward to your response outlining the steps you will now take relating to our concerns.  






Jennifer Clement, President, PEN International
Per Wästburg, PEN President Emeritus, Chair of the Nobel Prize for Literature
(and representatives of PEN centres in more than 30 countries, see below)

J. Anthony Gaughan, President, Irish 
Vanessa O’Loughlin, Irish PEN Chair,
June Considine, Irish PEN, WORD & Freedom to Write Campaign, Ireland
Lia Mills, Irish PEN, WORD & Freedom to Write Campaign, Ireland
Valerie Bistany, Director, Irish Writers Centre
Liz McManus, Chair, Irish Writers Centre Board

Jennifer Barrett, Ireland
Dermot Bolger, Ireland
Evelyn Conlon, Ireland
Marita Conlon McKenna
Mary Costello, Ireland
Darren Darker, Irish PEN
Celia De Fréine, WORD, Ireland
Anne Devlin, PEN International UK/Ireland
Martina Devlin, WORD, Ireland
Katie Donovan, WORD, Ireland
Theo Dorgan, Ireland
Catherine Dunne, WORD, Ireland
Kate Ennals, Word, Ireland
Anne Enright, Republic of Ireland
Mia Gallagher, WORD, Ireland
Frank Geary, Irish PEN
Carlo Gebler, Northern Ireland
Caroline Graham, WORD, Ireland
Padraig Hanratty, Irish PEN Membership Secretary
Sean Hardie, Ireland
Jack Harte, Ireland
Claire Kilroy, Ireland
Colum McCann, Ireland
Paula McGrath, Ireland
Frank McGuinness, Ireland
Henrietta McKervey, Ireland
Maria MacManus, Ireland
Declan Meade, Ireland
Paula Meehan, Ireland
Paul Muldoon, PEN America
E.R.Murray, Ireland
Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Irish PEN, WORD and Freedom to Write Campaign, Ireland
Kerrie O’Brien, Ireland
Joseph O’Connor, Ireland
Mary O'Donnell Ireland 
Louise Phillips, WORD, Ireland
DBC Pierre, UK/Ireland
Martin Roper, Republic of Ireland
Tom Sigafoos, WORD, Ireland
Grainne Tobin, Ireland
William Wall, Ireland

INTERNATIONAL SIGNATORIES include PEN members from more than 33 countries, 


Jennifer Clement, President, PEN International

Margaret Atwood, PEN Writers Circle Member

Salman Rushdie, PEN Writers Circle Member        

Yann Martel, PEN Writers Circle Member              

Eva Bonnier, Albert Bonniers Förlag, PEN Publishers Circle Member

Neil Gaiman

Aslı Erdoğan

Ian McEwan

Kamila Shamsie

Andrei Kurkov

Elif Shafak

Khadija Ismayilova

Paul Muldoon

Peter Greste


Here is a link to the full International PEN letter with all International signatures included:

 For more information:








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