Written by Danica Van der Merwe.

“They Blew Her Up” is a powerful play about business and politics getting too friendly, and the deadly consequences for a journalist who exposes a state run by corruption.

“Incompetence is a very good mask for corruption” – the character of the Journalist.

The play was staged in the KVS Theatre in Brussels on 4 and 5 May. The opening night also marked Herman Grech’s 25th anniversary of being a journalist. There could be no better way to commemorate such a milestone than to see months of hard work performed in a theatre in the centre of Europe. On 5 May, the play’s second and last night in Brussels, They Blew Her Up was listed by the Art Council as one of three finalists in Malta’s Production of the Year awards. The prize will be awarded to the winner in mid-June. Overall, a successful week for Herman, his team, and the play.

Herman was in the newsroom during the tragedy that hit the tiny island of Malta in 2017. He says that what followed was a play writing itself. It just needed someone to put the pieces together and take it to a stage- which is exactly what he did. Herman has had a passion for journalism and theatre for years and has done political plays before. His years of experience are visible in his newest production.

The actors take the audience on a journey with the help of five characters. Each actor plays a crucial role in the case, and their scripts are made up of actual statements that were told to Herman during interviews. Matthew Caruana Galizia, Daphne’s oldest son, was in attendance both nights of the play and stated in the Q&A afterwards that he remembered saying many of the things his character says, and how seeing them acted out on stage felt like he was looking at photographs from that time in his life. He jokingly said that he would not say the line “your pressroom should have burned to the ground” today, but that words like those reflected his state of mind back then.

When asked why he felt he needed to write this play, Herman said that he needed to make sure there was another avenue besides journalism to keep Daphne’s story alive. He commented on how quickly major headlines fade from the public’s minds and did not want anyone to forget what happened in 2017 in Malta.

“The fact that one of Malta’s most popular prime ministers had to step down because of what happened shows that there is strength in the masses, when people take to the streets and when people- journalists- stop sitting on the fence and say there is a right and a wrong.”- Herman Grech

Matthew spoke about corruption in Malta when an audience member asked him if there had been any major changes since the tragedy and everything that followed. He answered that they still had work to do to show the people of Malta that corruption is, indeed, a crime. It is still understood in Malta to be an acceptable policy. “The way things have been set up; you get away with it as long as you are the governing body.” He continued by saying that until someone is convicted of the crimes his mother had reported, he feels Malta will be stuck.

A question from the audience about whether engaging with a broader international audience would change anything, Matthew answered that he hopes so and that he is tired of seeing journalist after journalist being murdered. The people involved with the Daphne Foundation, in which Herman is also involved, are all tired of seeing friends and colleagues murdered. “Most people don’t know that the impunity rate for the murder of a journalist is 96%. That means in more than nine out of ten cases of murders of journalists, no one is ever charged with the crime.” 

An audience member commented on this seeming lack of change in Malta. She was in a restaurant speaking French with her friends and those around her did not realise she spoke Maltese, and she heard everyone speaking about Daphne and the situation. She continued by saying that she heard one man say, “I didn’t always agree with what she said, and people ask me about my electoral choices, but you know, we’re in Malta and it is important to back the winning horse.” She said that this is the mindset of Malta.

Another question from the audience was directed to Matthew about support from the European Union. He explained how he, and his brothers had to do a lot of work to explain to the Commission that his mother’s murder was not abolition but was, in fact, long in the making and that corruption has had a hold on Malta for a long time. Eventually, they saw past the smokescreen that the prime minister had put up, but it took great energy from the brothers’ side. He continued about the Council of Europe and its parliamentary assembly being another institution that played a huge role in the campaign for justice by throwing its weight and campaigning for justice.

The team of the AEJ Belgium with Herman Grech, Matthew Caruana Galizia and Gian-Paolo Accardo

On the second night of the play, EUractiv’s Rick Zednik commented that this play needs to be taken to Slovakia, his country, and abroad. This initiated a conversation about the cast of the play needing support to travel with the play. AEJ Belgium has stepped up and is willing to connect anyone desiring to reach Herman and his team to take the play further. Contact us at info@aej-belgium.eu. 

There is a powerful force behind the connection of journalism with art. Art, music, theatre- it all helps to tell the story behind the headline. They bring immortality to the words that so often fade from the minds of the public. They Blew Her Up is testimony to that.