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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Malta’s ‘Three Billboards’ justice protest torn down

Signs calling for justice for murdered Maltese journalist were taken down over planning problems – just hours after they went up

Protesters stand near billboards placed by the pressure group Occupy Justice calling for justice after the assassination of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed by a car bomb four months ago outside the office of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Protesters stand near billboards placed by the pressure group Occupy Justice calling for justice after the assassination of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed by a car bomb four months ago outside the office of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Posters demanding justice for a murdered Maltese journalist in a campaign inspired by the hit-movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri have been removed in a ‘vile act of suppression’, activists said Monday.

The three posters were put up on Friday to mark four months since the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia – an outspoken anti-corruption campaigner – amid public pressure to find out who was behind the attacks.

Hours later the three posters were removed by authorities citing planning breaches and electricity theft. The campaigners responded by taking their posters and laying them before the office of the Prime Minister.

“If you think you are going to silence us by pulling down our billboards ... you are mistaken,” the group Occupy Justice Malta said in a statement, describing the action as a “vile act of suppression”.

“The government's message is clear: providing any service to civil society will bring retribution of the full force of the government's power.”

The women’s group is just the latest global campaign to draw inspiration from the fictional Three Billboards plot in which a mother rents three billboards to draw attention to the unsolved murder of her daughter.

The Maltese three-poster campaign - “A journalist killed. No justice”, “A country robbed. No justice” and “No resignations. No justice” - taps into widespread public disquiet in Malta over the killing.

Ms Caruana Galizia was killed in October when a bomb was detonated underneath her car. She had written a series of reports about organised crime and had detail alleged corruption linked to the current government of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Despite Ms Caruana Galizia’s allegations, Mr Muscat secured re-election as leader of the European Union’s smallest nation before her killing last year.

Three Maltese men have been charged over the killing but work is continuing to try to find who commissioned the attack, according to Maltese media.

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In a statement, Malta’s planning authority said that the posters were one of a number targeted on Friday after notices for removal were served months ago. Campaigners said they only acted after their billboards were put up with political posters supporting the country’s leadership still in place.

The dead woman’s son, Matthew, said they were taken down while people were attending a vigil at her memorial in the capital Valletta.

Bill Browder, the financier turned human rights campaigner who worked for a decade in Russia, said that the campaign reminded him of tactics used by Vladimir Putin.

“This reminds me of how Putin destroyed the memorials for Boris Nemtsov,” he wrote on Twitter following the assassination of the liberal politician in 2015.

The protests came as the film that inspired the protest secured five awards at the British Bafta film awards, one of the guides to proable winners at the Oscars next month.