The European Parliament’s journalism prize, named after assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was awarded on Thursday (14 October) to the Pegasus Project which revealed global surveillance of journalists, politicians, and activists.
In July 2021, the Pegasus Project sent shockwaves around the world after it laid bare how Pegasus spyware, created by Israeli company NSO Group Technologies had been sold to governments and used against more than 50,000 people.
Leaked data, quantified and published by the consortium showed that at least 180 journalists, as well as politicians, military staff, and human rights defenders had been targeted.
The Hungarian government was also among those implicated in the leak.
Parliament’s President David Sassoli opened the award ceremony at the European Parliament, in the presence of two of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s three sons, Matthew and Paul. Journalists Sandrine Rigaud and Laurent Richard represented the Pegasus Project.
“Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death has brought about a resurgence of investigative journalism by colleagues committed to continuing her work”, Sassoli said. “By creating transparency, investigative journalism allows voters to make informed decisions. Protecting and supporting journalists is in the vital interest of democratic societies.”
The Maltese journalist’s killing, he added, “was a watershed moment for European journalism, for our politics and our societies, as it touched upon the very core of our European identity…Journalists must never fear for their lives because they are doing their jobs.”
The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism was launched on 16 October 2020 to mark the third anniversary of her assassination. Its aim is to award outstanding values that reflect EU values.
Each year, the prize-giving ceremony takes place around 16 October as a “symbolic reminder of the date Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated.”
Parliament Vice-President Heidi Hautala said that the prize “will recognise the essential role that journalists play in preserving our democracies and serve as a reminder to citizens of the importance of a free press. This Prize is designed to help journalists in the vital and often dangerous work they do and show that the European Parliament supports investigative journalists.”
Who was Daphne Caruana Galizia?
Daphne Caruana Galizia was Malta’s leading investigative journalist. She ran her own website ‘Running Commentary’ which at peak times, had over 400,000 hits a day. Malta’s population is under 500,000 people.
Sometimes referred to as “a one-woman WikiLeaks”, she reported on local government corruption, nepotism, and deals involving prominent businessmen.
On 16 October 2017, she published her last blog before being killed by a car bomb. The closing line, “there are crooks everywhere you look. The situation is desperate”, has become iconic and symbolic in the years since her murder.
In the four years that followed, her family, along with journalists, activists, and even European parliamentarians have fought for justice. One individual has been convicted for his part in carrying out the assassination, while others involved, including the alleged mastermind, remain on trial.
A recent public inquiry held in Malta and the result of an ultimatum from the Plenary Assembly of the Council of Europe concluded that the Maltese state held responsibility for the assassination. It said they were aware of the threats and risks to her life, and failed to act. Furthermore, it accused the Socialist-led government of corruption and creating a situation of impunity that facilitated the crimes against Caruana Galizia and others.
The report called for wide-sweeping reforms to governance, the judiciary, and additional protections for the country’s media workers.
[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi and Benjamin Fox]