Who Ordered The Car Bomb That Killed Maltese Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia? The reporter was killed last October, as she was digging up dirt on Malta's most powerful. The final words on her blog were: "There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate."
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Who Ordered The Car Bomb That Killed Maltese Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia?

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Who Ordered The Car Bomb That Killed Maltese Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia?

Who Ordered The Car Bomb That Killed Maltese Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia?

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KORVA COLEMAN, HOST:

Dozens of journalists are killed every year around the world in war zones or countries with weak rule of law, like Russia. We have a story now about an investigative journalist murdered in the European Union. The crime took place in the EU's smallest member state, Malta, the Mediterranean island south of Sicily with fewer than half a million inhabitants. Joanna Kakissis reports, EU officials seem more eager than the Maltese government to crack the case.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: On October 16 of last year, in a quiet village in northern Malta, investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia typed the final words on her blog, Running Commentary. There are crooks everywhere you look now, she wrote; the situation is desperate. A government minister had gotten the courts to freeze her bank accounts. She told her son Matthew she was going to the bank to fight for access to her funds.

MATTHEW CARUANA GALIZIA: If someone tried to shut her up, if someone tried to stop her or - she'd just fight back even harder. That was her spirit.

KAKISSIS: Matthew heard her drive away in her gray Peugeot. Then he heard an explosion.

M. CARUANA GALIZIA: I knew it was a car bomb straight away. I just kind of leapt out of my chair and out. And I knew what it was immediately.

KAKISSIS: He ran down the road barefoot. He saw his mother's car ablaze in a field of wildflowers. He saw pieces of flesh.

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KAKISSIS: Daphne Caruana Galizia was 53 years old. The president of the European Parliament attended her funeral in Malta. And in Brussels, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas expressed horror and linked the murder to her work.

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MARGARITIS SCHINAS: The right of a journalist to investigate, ask uncomfortable questions and to report effectively is at the heart of our values and needs to be guaranteed at all times.

KAKISSIS: Caruana Galizia asked uncomfortable questions about alleged money laundering, fuel smuggling, organized crime and the sale of Maltese passports, which allow free movement through the EU. She combed through the leaked law firm records known as the Panama Papers and found offshore wealth tied to the Maltese prime minister's inner circle.

CORINNE VELLA: They wanted to shut her up.

KAKISSIS: Corinne Vella is Caruana Galizia's sister.

VELLA: She obviously spoke truth to power. That was threatening to people in power.

KAKISSIS: Three men who allegedly planted the bomb and detonated it are awaiting trial, but there's no word on who ordered Caruana Galizia's murder. Ana Gomes, a Portuguese member of the European Parliament, is growing impatient.

ANA GOMES: We are very concerned now that the investigation will just die down, so to say.

KAKISSIS: I catch Gomes on her most recent visit to Malta. She throws up her hands and says, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has not been cooperative.

GOMES: He dismissed our concerns with the argument that he had won an election; he would do whatever he decided. But, of course, we don't believe that an election cleans what are very serious accusations of corruption.

KAKISSIS: The prime minister's spokesman did not respond to NPR's requests for comment, but Muscat has said in the past that he's doing everything possible to solve the murder and will resign if he's found to be corrupt.

More than half of the country supports Muscat, especially working-class voters like Grace Attard.

GRACE ATTARD: The economy has gone a lot better. The people are feeling it.

KAKISSIS: Attard is pouring Maltese beers at a canteen she runs in the harbor town of Cospicua. She praises Muscat for cutting electricity rates and making improvements to her neighborhood.

ATTARD: Our prime minister tells us that everybody is important, and he is there for everybody.

KAKISSIS: Daphne Caruana Galizia, she says, bad-mouthed the country.

ATTARD: I couldn't read all she said because she hurt a lot of people.

KAKISSIS: Caruana Galizia's investigations into allegations of corruption and her biting commentaries about the personal lives of politicians drove the news cycle here. They also prompted dozens of libel lawsuits, as well as death threats. Her house was set on fire. Her dog's throat was slit just days before she died. She worried about how this abuse would affect other whistleblowers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAPHNE CARUANA GALIZIA: My biggest concern is that because people see what happened me, they don't want to do it. People are afraid of consequences.

KAKISSIS: That audio comes from the Daphne Project, a collective of international journalists who are investigating her death and continuing her muckraking. And one of her longtime readers, Manuel Delia, has started his own investigative blog.

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KAKISSIS: He stands on the still-scorched earth where Caruana Galizia was murdered.

MANUEL DELIA: Malta is a country we're proud of, and rightly so. You know, it's a beautiful Mediterranean country. We've done well for ourselves. And people have jobs here. And everyone wants to come here to enjoy the sun and to enjoy the beautiful heritage. But underneath that surface is an ugliness, is a rot.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing in foreign language.)

KAKISSIS: Caruana Galizia's supporters believe she was trying to root out that rot, and they don't want her to be forgotten. On the 16th of every month, they mark the day of her murder with a vigil outside the courthouse in Malta's capital, Valletta. They hold up signs asking, who killed Daphne? For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Valletta, Malta.

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