Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta’s best-known investigative journalist, has been killed when a powerful bomb blew up her car on the small Mediterranean island.
Caruana Galizia, 53, ran a hugely popular blog in which she relentlessly highlighted cases of alleged high-level corruption targeting politicians from across party lines.
“There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate,” she wrote in a blog published on her site just half an hour before an explosion tore into her car on Monday.
Locals said Caruana Galizia had just left her house and was on a road near the village of Bidnija in northern Malta when the bomb detonated, sending her car flying into an adjacent field.
Malta Television reported that Caruana Galizia had filed a complaint to the police two weeks ago to say she had received threats. It gave no further information.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who faced accusations of wrong-doing by Caruana Galizia earlier this year, denounced her killing, calling it a “barbaric attack on press freedom”.
He announced the US Federal Bureau of Investigation had agreed to help local police investigate the killing and was flying experts to the island as soon as possible.
“I will not rest until I see justice done in this case,” he said in a statement, calling for national unity.
Malta has a population of 400,000 and is the European Union’s smallest state.
“Everyone knows Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine, both politically and personally, but nobody can justify this barbaric act in any way,” Muscat said. “The only remedy for anyone who felt slandered was through the courts.”
Muscat sued Caruana Galizia after she wrote blogs earlier this year saying his wife was the beneficial owner of a company in Panama, and that large sums of money had been moved between the company and bank accounts in Azerbaijan.
Both Muscat and his wife denied the accusations.
Looking for a vote of confidence to counter the allegations, Muscat called snap elections in June which he easily won. Recently, Caruana Galizia’s outspoken blog had turned its fire on opposition politicians.
Opposition leader Adrian Delia said the blogger was the victim of a “political murder”.
“Caruana Galizia revealed the Panama Papers and was the government’s strongest critic,” he said, calling for an independent probe of her killing.
“We will not accept an investigation by the Commissioner of Police, the Army commander or the duty magistrate, all of whom were at the heart of criticism by Caruana Galizia,” he said.
European politicians expressed dismay at her death.
“A dark day for democracy,” tweeted Manfred Weber, head of the conservative bloc in the European prliament.
Caruana Galizia took aim at politicians and senior officials from across Malta, seeing the island as a hotbed of corruption.
“Malta’s public life is afflicted with dangerously unstable men with no principles or scruples,” she wrote last year.