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Daphne Galizia and the light she left behind

People inspire me all the time. I love stories of those who have brutally overcome the odds in ways we don’t always believe are possible. Those beneath the veil of what we considered acceptable; those who fight for what is right in ways that not everyone may understand. I’ve recently come to understand the importance and impact of that kind of journalism on our society. I see now that there are heroes living and dying amid a world of tight deadlines, word count, constant stress and the desire to understand the unknown.

Daphne Carauna Galizia was one of those heroes. To say she was a fighter is an understatement; every single ugly, terrifying, brutal means of taking her voice away from her only made her louder. Unearthing corruption at its very core was not just her career, but her entire life, her death and everything in between. She shook the world with her truth and resilience, sparking a flame that would grow and rage into a wildfire across the globe.

My regret is that I never knew her name until after she was killed.

The Panama Papers. The “growing culture of impunity” in Malta. Money laundering. The mafia. Daphne’s harsh, unfiltered exposure of corruption in Malta drew a number of readers and followers that no other press in the country could contest. Her website, “Running Commentary,” detailed every instance of dishonesty, lies and cruelty at the hands of Maltese politicians. Being arrested at 18 for participating in a pro-democracy protest was only the beginning of her fight against political corruption and cruelty that would place a target on her back for years to come.

The official release of the Panama Papers in 2016 would shake the world as we know it, exposing massive companies and political figures across the globe of their abuse of offshore tax havens. These havens allow the collection of large sums of money without responsibility or taxation. Journalists are still working through the thousands upon thousands of papers today.

Galizia knew of some information contained within the Panama Papers before their leak. On her website, she linked the Maltese Prime Minister  Joseph Muscat and several of his cabinet members to offshore tax havens overseas in Feb. 2016. In April, the papers were released to the world and her findings were confirmed to be true. She was responsible for the return of the Labour Party in 2017, linking Muscat’s wife to another offshore haven in Panama and prompting a summer re-election.

I know that the hatred and cruelty towards those who seek to disrupt the comfort that a well-spun lie can bring is nothing new. The hatred of a woman disrupting the peace is a longer story yet. Her animals were killed, and her family was threatened. Her car exploded, and her assets were frozen. Her house was set on fire, and death threats in her mailbox were regular occurrences.

Her son found what was left her body after she was killed in a car bomb on Oct. 17, 2017. Galizia’s death shocked the world, but her legacy of bravery and iron-fisted strength in the face of impossible adversary inspired others to do the same.

A collaborative journalist group, Forbidden Stories, is continuing her work that was left unfinished in the wake of her death. Titled The Daphne Project, their research touches on the 500 journalists who have been killed between 2012 and 2017 and the hundreds of thousands of documents Galizia left behind in her 30 years of work. They have worked with 18 different global news organizations to combat the censorship of her work and dedicate themselves to completing the stories that were left unfinished in the wake of other journalists’ deaths.

I knew nothing of her until only weeks ago, but I refuse to believe her impact was anything but monumental and widespread. The ripple effect that Galizia has left behind will be that the world needs to understand that there are people out there fighting and dying for what they believe. The world is quietly creeping toward something dangerous; I believe that whatever darkness we fear may one day envelop the world may already be here. The people who are inspired and moved by those like Galizia are the ones I fear for the most—the ones that those in power will do anything to silence and shut away. I fear for the people like Galizia, who will not rest until the world is a better place or until they are silenced for good.

I fear for them and I know that because of my fear, we need them more than ever. In death, the voices of our heros will never be silenced. I think I can believe in that much.

Rest in power, Daphne Galizia. May the flame you managed to light blaze to a brilliant inferno across the globe.

Sam Walsh is a student majoring in English and Special Education with a minor in autism studies. SW850037@wcupa.edu

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