The Malta Independent 20 August 2017, Sunday

Analysis: Election Roundup – Day 18 - Protecting whistleblowers and sources

Stephen Calleja Saturday, 20 May 2017, 06:02 Last update: about 4 months ago

The fundamentals of our democracy are once again a main issue in this election campaign.

And the situation does not appear rosy at all.

Editors have been asked to reveal their sources. Whistleblowers who should be getting protection are receiving notice of criminal libel. Emails that were sent by the Nationalist Party were blocked. Surveys show that the number of people who are afraid to say how they will vote continues to grow, fearing retribution. PBS gets a slap on the wrist for not reporting a court case involving one of the whistleblowers, claiming it did not have news value.

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It’s just not right that the freedom of the media, freedom of expression and freedom of association are once again under threat. And people who expose wrongdoing are themselves investigated while the wrongdoers get away with nothing. And that the national TV station gatekeeps for the government.

Our institutions are failing us deeply, in particular the police force, but not only. The police should be investigating people accused of breaking the law, and not those who expose them. But it is not only the police force who are under the microscope for not doing their duties.

PN leader Simon Busuttil yesterday said that the person who provided him with information about Keith Schembri is now facing court proceedings. The first question that comes to mind is – how did they know it was him or her? The second question, which is perhaps more important, is why there is an attempt at intimidation.

The investigations continue. Busuttil presented more evidence to Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, who must now decide what to do with it. For the first time, Busuttil said he is ready to publish the documents if Labour continues to say he has no proof. And Nexia BT employees were temporarily not allowed into their offices.

Air Malta was a subject that came up in yesterday’s events, with the Prime Minister saying that there is an interest in the airline. We just hope that it will not be another Alitalia. But I have a bad feeling that it could be some country like Azerbaijan.

PN leader Busuttil had a different view from that of the PM, saying that the government should not necessarily hold on to a majority shareholding in the company.

Labour is still unhappy about the open air theatre in Valletta, a pet subject when it was being built in the previous administration. It is now planning a retractable roof.

In the evening, Labour presented its electoral manifesto in a half-empty arena in St Julian’s. Prime Minister Muscat said that Labour’s plans are better than the “Taghna Lkoll” programme presented four years ago. Whether he was referring to him and his closest allies or the rest of us, only time will tell. One proposal is the setting up of a transparency register where public persons declare their commercial interests. Is this a joke or something for real?

The PN, for its part, is pledging better working conditions for the police, including the establishment of a 40-hour week and a reduction in tax on extra duties performed.

We will be voting in two weeks’ time. And the impression is that there is still more to come in these last 12 days of the campaign.

 

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