The Malta Independent 29 May 2024, Wednesday
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The Malta Independent editorial - Carmelo Grech and Libya: An apology is due

Thursday, 10 September 2015, 09:10 Last update: about 10 years ago

The last thing that a man who is being held under arrest in a foreign country would want is that the media in his own country starts dishing out unfounded stories about why he is being held captive. The distress that such a man and his family are passing through is already immense without there being a need to make it worse with untrue information.

This is unfortunately what happened to Carmelo Grech, known as Charlie, a sea captain who was detained in Libya for nearly three weeks because of a visa blunder.

The situation in Libya - with the Islamist-backed government in Tripoli and the internationally recognized government in Tobruk at each other's throats - is so volatile that incidents such as the ones experienced by Mr Grech are bound to happen. Neither of the Libyan governments is conceding an inch, and so both are always ready to point fingers at each other, caring little for the innocent people like Mr Grech who are caught in between.

If this was not enough, we had The Times of Malta and Maltatoday speculating about why Mr Grech had been kept in Libya, the first reporting that he was caught with €300,000 in cash while the latter alleged that he was involved in the smuggling of weapons.

Both stories were untrue and unverified, and their lack of veracity was confirmed when Mr Grech was released and allowed to return to Malta, safe and unharmed. If the Libyans had had any doubt about why Mr Grech was in Libya, it is probable that he would still be there and would not have been treated so kindly.

Yet, both The Times of Malta and Maltatoday kept on repeating the same allegations, and by so doing endangered Mr Grech's position. Reading their stories online, the Libyans holding Mr Grech must have had misgivings about his presence there.

The two media houses did not even bother to correct their position after Mr Grech returned. Instead of apologising for their misleading insinuations, they reiterated their allegations even when he had set foot in Malta.

Mr Grech has hinted that he will seek legal advice on the reports, but it is probable that no further action will be taken given that he wants to put his ordeal behind him as quickly as possible, also knowing that such a case would drag on in our courts of law for many years.

We, the media, must be extremely careful when reporting such incidents. It is a basic rule every media house should know that sometimes sources have their own agenda when they pass on information. It is therefore imperative that any details pertaining to delicate issues such as that involving Mr Grech must be verified and be considered fool-proof before they are published or uploaded online.

In this case, matters turned out well for the person involved. But they could have gone drastically wrong. We feel that a public apology to Mr Grech by the respective media houses is due. 



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