The Malta Independent 26 May 2019, Sunday

Zurrieq double-decker tragedy most read story on www.independent.com.mt in 2018

Stephen Calleja Sunday, 6 January 2019, 08:00 Last update: about 6 months ago

The death of two foreigners in a freak accident in Zurrieq in early April was the most read story on The Malta Independent website www.independent.com.mt during 2018.

On 9 April, a Spanish woman and a Belgian man were killed instantly when the double-decker bus they were on crashed into a tree. Another 50 people were treated for injuries, some of them serious, as the top part of the bus slammed into a tree at the side of the road.

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This incident was followed by a lengthy debate on the presence of trees on Maltese roads, with many which started to be considered as being dangerous to traffic and pedestrians being chopped off or pruned.

The second most read story had a foreign flavour, and was broken locally by The Malta Independent which revealed that Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro was being investigated in the United States of America for having laundered some €160 million through an unnamed Maltese private investment firm, according to a Homeland Security Investigations criminal complaint filed in the courts of Miami.

In third place was another story which was broken by this newsroom in April, and dealt with electricity bills which were higher than what they should be. This is because bills are being sent more frequently, and the complexity of how they are calculated adds to further suspicions that consumers are being charged more than they should. The government is denying this, but complaints continue to arrive to this day.

Not many stories dealing with politics made it to the top 20 of our most read stories. It could be that people have become fed up of Maltese politics – or perhaps of Maltese politicians and their shenanigans.

One of the many stories carried during 2018 on the pressure faced by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to dismiss his Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and chief of staff Konrad Mizzi over the Panama Papers scandal – a story that started in April 2016 but still reverberates today – made it to only the 18th place of our list.

But there were two other stories about difficult moments Muscat had to deal with that made it to higher places among our readers.

The interview Muscat gave to the BBC, in which he was described by journalist James Sweeney as being the Artful Dodger of Europe and the passport-seller-in-chief, finished a high sixth place. That interview, which was aired in January, affected the way Muscat treated the media from thereon. After that BBC interview, Muscat chose to send others in his stead to “defend” Malta’s name, including his deputy Chris Fearne and, more recently, Edward Scicluna and Glenn Bedingfield. In Malta, Muscat continues to turn down requests for interviews by the independent media, preferring to accept one-to-ones only with friendly journalists.

The second instance which had Muscat blushing was the time when a group of Maltese people shouted “shame on you” in the heart of London as the PM and his wife Michelle were entering a building where an activity related to Malta’s passports-for-sale scheme was to be held. This story was ninth on our list of most-read stories in 2018.

Another story which exposed how Malta’s passport scheme is viewed very negatively in foreign quarters was the one in which we reported that members of the Italian political party Cinque Stelle walked out of an event in Sicily when President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca was about to start her address. This was the 20th most read story last year.

The killing of businessman Hugo Chetcuti in Paceville was unsurprisingly present twice in our top 20 stories, with the story about his death the fourth most read story while the stabbing, which took place six days earlier, was 11th. Another story involving Chetcuti – his interest to stretch his business empire from Paceville to Balluta, which was carried in January, six months before his murder – finished number 16.

Two other murders were greatly followed by our readers, the killing of a Dutch woman in Santa Venera and the murder of two women in a domestic incident in Gharghur.

On a much lighter note, the time when Partit Demokratiku MP Marlene Farrugia told her partner and fellow MP Godfrey Farrugia to go check the food which was burning while she was giving a press conference in their own residence also grabbed our readers’ attention and ended up in 19th place.

Top 20 stories on www.independent.com.mt in 2018

1.       Two dead, several injured in double-decker crash in Zurrieq

2.       Venezuelan president implicated in US investigation of €160 million laundered through Malta

3.       Have you noticed an increase in your electricity bill – if so, we may have the answer

4.       Entrepreneur Hugo Chetcuti dies six days after being stabbed in Paceville

5.       Woman found dead in Santa Venera – murder investigation launched

6.       BBC interview tears into PM calling him Artful Dodger of Europe, passport-seller-in-chief

7.       Woman used to drug husband to have sex with other men, court hears

8.       Paceville death: Maltese youth did not fall to ground on being punched, collapsed minutes later

9.       Crowd shouts shame on you as Muscat couple enters venue for IIP event in London

10.   I feel trapped – mother and son on brink of homelessness living on €20 a month

11.   Businessman Hugo Chetcuti in critical condition after being stabbed in Paceville

12.   Former Xaghra archpriest under police investigation over sexual abuse allegations

13.   Two women killed in Gharghur domestic incident

14.   PN leadership finds the moles leaking information

15.   Petition calls for removal of Archbishop Scicluna on false premise

16.   Hugo Chetcuti empire stretches to Balluta but will he succeed where others have failed

17.   Bomb discovered under a car in Fgura, AFM called to defuse it

18.   Muscat under pressure as senior ministers urge him to take action on Mizzi and Schembri

19.   Food is burning, Marlene tells Godfrey as she speaks about Egrant

20.   Cinque Stelle MPs walk out in protest when Maltese president begins to speak

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