Daphne Caruana Galizia, one of Malta’s best known investigative journalists, was killed after a powerful blast blew up her car, local media reported Monday.
While police would confirm only that the explosion had taken place, Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said based on preliminary evidence, indications are that Caruana Galizia was killed in the explosion.
According to local media, Caruana Galizia was reportedly killed soon after leaving her home in Bidnija, close to Mosta.
Caruana Galizia, 53, was highlighted by politics website Politico as one of 28 individuals who would have a major impact on Europe in 2017 after her work in exposing corruption within Malta’s political scene. Politico described her as “a one-woman WikiLeaks, crusading against untransparency and corruption in Malta.”
Her popular blog, “Running Commentary,” was one of the most influential within Maltese politics and was a leading factor in Muscat calling early elections four months ago after she alleged that the Prime Minister and his wife were linked to the Panama Papers scandal.
The couple denied the allegations, rejecting accusations they had used secret offshore bank accounts to hide payments from the ruling family of Azerbaijan.
In a statement issued in the aftermath of the explosion, Muscat called the incident “barbaric” and said it “goes against civilization and dignity.”
“I condemn, without reservations this barbaric attack on a person and on the freedom of expression in our country,” he said in a statement.
“Everyone is aware that Ms. Caruana Galizia was one of my harshest critics, politically and personally, as she was for others, too.
“However, I can never use, in any way this fact to justify, in any possible way, this barbaric act that goes against civilization and all dignity.”
It was Caruana Galizia’s story on alleged corruption that led to Muscat calling an early election in June – a vote which he won easily.
Caruana Galizia alleged that Muscat’s wife, Michelle, was the owner of a company in Panama and that vast sums of money had been transferred between the company and bank accounts in Azerbaijan.
Both Muscat and his wife denied the allegations.
In her final blog post, which was uploaded on Monday just 30 minutes before the explosion, Caruana Galizia took aim at opposition lawmakers and labeled the current political situation as “desperate.”
Caruana Galizia had enjoyed a successful career in journalism, working for several of the major titles in Malta.
She was also widely admired in Europe for her investigative reporting.
On Twitter, Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, said Caruana Galizia was a “tragic example” of a journalist who had “sacrificed her life to seek out the truth.”
In a statement, Gerard Ryle, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, called upon the Maltese authorities to “investigate the murder and bring the perpetrators to justice.”