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“After 20 years, they should have worked out who and what they’re dealing with here. They call me a bully. The reality is that – as many people have discovered over the years, from school to work to society – I am someone who can’t be bullied, not because I am a bully myself but because I stand up to bullies wherever I find them.”

Daphne Caruana Galizia published these words on her running commentary blog on 29 March, 2010. She had already been deep in the trenches against magistrate (now judge) Consuelo Scerri Herrera for exactly two months – on 29 January, Daphne had published a story detailing how Scerri Herrera was having an affair with then Nationalist Party mayor of Siġġiewi Robert Musumeci, who has been making hundreds of thousands of euros every year from generous government consultancies awarded to him after the Labour Party came to power.

By the end of that year, Daphne was facing off with the very worst the Labour Party was capable of throwing at her. While the previous year had already served as a clear prelude of what was going to be heading Daphne’s way once Joseph Muscat was made leader of the opposition, the escalation that occurred in 2010 was unprecedented in scale and intensity.

Daphne was in the midst of a long, drawn-out battle with a magistrate who was hell-bent on abusing all possible avenues of power at her disposal, a magistrate who in fact filed a criminal defamation suit by filing a complaint with the police. As obliging as ever, the police later subjected Daphne to harassment and multiple interrogations.

Besides exposing her affair with Musumeci, Daphne had also written at length about an incident in which the magistrate had entertained an offer of drinks from corrupt policemen during a lunch in which Daphne was present only to then lie about the identity of the officers in question and claim one of them was then assistant commissioner Michael Cassar, how Scerri Herrera had lied to reporters outside court and later, the police, about Daphne calling her “a fucking liar”, and that Daphne had breached the law by approaching the magistrate in person during the ongoing court case in which Daphne was the accused while Scerri Herrera was a witness for the prosecution.

Shortly after Scerri Herrera filed her defamation suit, Daphne was also taken to court by Super ONE’s Charlon Gouder (now turned tuna lobbyist and legal adviser to the government) over a story in which he had not answered questions about whether it was true that he was robbed by a sex worker after he had filed an incoherent police report that was brought to light.

As if the links weren’t altogether obvious already, leading exponents of the Labour Party – including Gouder himself – were also present at the hearings in Scerri Herrera’s defamation suit. The leader of the opposition himself even went over to Scerri Herrera’s house for dinner one evening, midway throughout the scandal’s peak.

By October, the Chief Justice had removed 21 cases related to politicians and journalists from Scerri Herrera’s desk, likely as a result of Daphne’s extensive reporting on Scerri Herrera’s links with politicians and journalists whose cases were being heard under the auspices of her courtroom.

By the end of April, the Labour Party’s obsession with taking down one blogger became so manic that all of the Labour Party’s vast media network – the infamous Malta Star, it-Torċa, KullĦadd, l-Orizzont, and a malicious site which was known as ‘Taste of Your Own Medicine’ – was dedicating the overwhelming majority of its resources to spreading extremely slanderous, fabricated stories about Daphne and her family.

The now defunct Taste of Your Own Medicine in particular was so bad that blog posts from that time were presented to the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry as evidence of the harassment she endured. One of the party loyalists who was directly involved in this harassment campaign was Alex Saliba, now Alex Agius Saliba, who is one of the Labour Party’s MEPs in Brussels. Christopher Agius, another party loyalist, was the individual who was directly responsible for the website itself.

A message to Pia Micallef of Maltastar, Alex Saliba of Forum Zghazagh Laburisti and the others responsible for I have reported you to the Commissioner of Police for criminal investigation

Even the Institute of Maltese Journalists and the rest of the independent press had all but abandoned Daphne’s tenacious reporting about the magistrate’s affair, even though it was clear that a magistrate who was prone to lying and engaging in extramarital affairs could not possibly be deemed a trustworthy individual whose conduct befits the judiciary’s bench. Malta Today had thrown its lot in with Musumeci and Scerri Herrera from day one of Daphne’s reporting on the topic, labeling Daphne’s work as “savage character assassination on a blog“.

Nonetheless, Daphne was not deterred, and determinedly kept up her commitment towards holding the Labour Party accountable for the already evident sleaze and corruption among its ranks. The abusive, slanderous, and downright criminal efforts of the Labour Party to destroy Daphne Caruana Galizia’s credibility only intensified further as a result.

The list of stories which the Labour Party was making up on these websites which were later taken down was so extensive that even Daphne herself was unable to catalogue them in full. In one of her rebuttals to yet another threat issued on Taste of Your Own Medicine, she wrote:

“So do make sure that you confirm this story of yours using the same sources you did to confirm that:

my father has a second family in Sicily,

my husband is gay and having an affair with a woman,

my sons are gay and go to Kloset without my knowledge,

my husband’s family is ashamed of me because I was born and bred in the gutter and they are socially superior,

I failed all my O-levels,

I never went to university,

one of my sisters is married to a magistrate, another needs divorce legislation so that she can marry,

my mother’s family are Arabs because they’re called Mamo (though I see that you haven’t risked taking her family apart lest you lose some GasanMamo advertising),

the Nationalist Party or the government pays me to produce my blog and gives me contracts,

Charles Crawford is the government’s spin doctor and helps me work on my blog,

my father tried to stop the Preluna being built in his backyard (he was one of the original contractors, supplied all the lifts and was a guest at their 40th anniversary party),

my grandfather threw stones at (his wife’s cousin) Sir Arturo Mercieca as he was deported,

my sons got onto prestigious postgraduate programmes because their mother the GonziPN spin doctor pulled strings, I am certifiably insane, and….shall I go on?”

Hatred towards Daphne only further intensified when reports began circulating about former prime minister Dom Mintoff’s ill health. Anyone who’s ever read Daphne’s blog knows full well about how she viewed him and how heavily she criticised him, and she would never miss an opportunity to dissect how his time in power was one of the most profoundly unstable and corrupt periods in Malta’s brief history as an independent country. Inevitably, the hate mail came pouring in fast and hard.

After the furor of the political maelstroms in which Daphne was caught up throughout that year, she even managed to smell the first traces of suspicious manouevres around Muscat’s overhyped announcement about the Labour Party’s plans to cut electricity and water tariffs, calling Muscat “another snake-oil merchant“.

Of course, it would only be years later when we’d get to finally understand what Muscat really meant – these were the Labour Party’s first public allusions to their plans for the Electrogas power station, the same corrupt project which would later be exposed as such by Daphne herself. It was this same exposé that led to the conspiracy which cost Daphne her life.

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