Malta officials told to stay away from funeral of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

Mourners have celebrated the life of the investigative journalist who exposed the Panama Papers before she was murdered by a bomb placed under her car.

Family and friends of Daphne Caruana Galizia gathered at a mass in the church nearest to the spot where she was killed on October 16.

She was known as a fearless reporter on corruption and crime in her native island of Malta - and the island's leaders were among her targets.

The European Parliament President Antonio Tajani was among those paying tribute at the funeral service today.

But Malta's leaders were not present after they were ordered to stay away by Ms Caruana Galizia's family.

The family has been vocal in its criticism of the government for its failure to root out the kind of corruption that Ms Caruana Galizia covered in her blog, "Running Commentary," which was a must-read in the small island nation.

So far, investigators have not identified any suspects or made an arrest over her murder.

Family and friends made the peace sign at the funeral service on Friday.

Malta's Roman Catholic archbishop Charles Scicluna gave an address in which he urged fellow journalists on the island to pursue truth without fear.

"Do not be afraid," he said.

"I encourage you never to grow weary in your mission to be the eyes, the ears, and the mouth of the people. Do this without fear and with full respect of the truth."

Family members and friends at the funeral service. Credit: AP

As Ms Caruana Galizia's coffin was driven away from the church, the crowd broke out singing the Maltese national anthem

The Malta government declared Friday as a day of national mourning and "a sign that no attack on freedom of expression is accepted in Malta's democracy."

In Brussels, the flag at European Commission headquarters flew at half-staff in Ms Caruana Galizia's memory. The commission issued a statement condemning "this brutal attack" that killed her.

"The right of a journalist to investigate, ask uncomfortable questions and report effectively, is at the heart of our values and needs to be guaranteed at all times," the statement said.

Mourners made the peace sign during the funeral. Credit: AP

At the time of her death, the journalist was facing 42 libel lawsuits in the Maltese courts. Most of the cases are expected to proceed.Opposition leader Adrian Delia has withdrawn the five suits he brought against her.

Malta's government has offered a 1 million euro ($1.18 million) reward for information leading to those responsible for the killing and fullprotection for anyone stepping forward.

The journalist's family has refused to endorse the reward, calling instead for Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's resignation for "failing to uphold our fundamental freedoms" by not rooting out corruption.