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The Daphne Festival
Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb on 16 October 2017. She is one of a string of journalists across the world who have faced threats, torture, imprisonment – and death – for investigating organised crime, corrupt politicians and shady institutions. Her family have fought for justice and her alleged killers go on trial in Malta next month.
The Daphne Festival, which took place at St John’s from 3-16 October, not only highlighted Caruana Galizia’s work and look at how her investigations have lived on and led to her alleged killers, but also focused on threats faced by journalists, particularly female journalists, across the globe. The Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak was killed just a few months after Caruana Galizia’s murder, and since then, journalists have been killed in Greece and the Netherlands. In May 2022, the Palestinian American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh was shot dead in Israel.
Partners in the festival included major press freedom organisations from around the world, such as Reporters without Borders (RSF), Index on Censorship, Women in Journalism (WiJ), PEN International and The Frontline Club, as well as democracy and human rights organisations such as Repubblika, Article 19 and The Foreign Policy Centre.
There were sessions on the threats, bigotry and misogyny that has been weaponised to undermine the reporting of female journalists, the story on how Daphne’s work was kept alive by journalists at Forbidden Stories with investigations uncovering leads to her killers, as well as readings from Caruana Galizia’s work and an exhibition of art inspired by her murder and the subsequent fight for justice.
There was also a panel on the growing momentum in the EU and the UK for introducing anti-SLAPP legislation. SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation, are intended to silence critics, often journalists, by burdening them with the crippling costs of a lawsuit and London is the “hotspot” for libel tourism. This event, one of the first since the UK Government announced proposals which would give courts in England and Wales new powers to dismiss such lawsuits, was led by the UK Anti-SLAPP coalition partners and preceded a major Anti-SLAPP conference in Strasbourg on 22 October.
Rebecca Vincent, director of operations and campaigns at Reporters Without Borders (RSF); Dr Julie Posetti, global director of research at the International Center for Journalists; writer, filmmaker, broadcaster and academic Juliet Jacques, and the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola MEP were just some of those whom audiences had the chance to hear speak and debate.
The festival concluded with a vigil at St John’s Waterloo, honouring Caruana Galizia’s memory, led by Maltese people living in London. It was linked online to other vigils in Malta and elsewhere.