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Watch: Owen Bonnici points to freedom of expression when defending Jason Micallef

Julian Bonnici Saturday, 24 March 2018, 10:37 Last update: about 7 years ago

Culture Minister Owen Bonnici has defended Jason Micallef following the latter's mocking of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia's last written words, explaining that he felt the issue was a matter of freedom of expression.

He did, however, also urge caution in the type of discourse that public officials use.

Bonnici was approached by The Malta Independent, following Micallef's social media post on 17 March, when he uploaded a picture of the crowds that gathered in St Julian's to celebrate St Patrick's Day, and in a twist of the last words written by the assassinated journalist "St Patrick's Day in Malta. The situation is desperate. There are happy people everywhere you look."

The previous day, Micallef described Caruana Galizia as being "divisive in her life and worse in her death" as he uploaded images of a now torn-down banner calling for justice for the assassinated journalist.

The posts generated a strong response from the public, with the Civil Society Network calling for his resignation explaining that Micallef's  'divisive and insensitive attitude' was not worthy of the state-appointed official heading the European Capital City of Culture.

Micallef said, in a second post, that the negative reaction from some members of the public was "the legacy of hatred left behind" by Caruana Galizia.

Asked for a comment, Bonnici said that Micallef has the right to express an idea and an opinion, reiterating that the freedom of expression was a core pillar of the country's democracy.

He was then asked whether such rhetoric was becoming of an individual who occupied the post of Chairman of the Valletta 2018 Foundation, an event which is meant to unify the nation regardless of political leaning, rather than divide.

"What I can say is that throughout all that has happened, I have taken immense care and paid particular attention to the words I personally use. At the end of the day, I am a government minister and he is the chairperson of a cultural entity, so it's different. I think it all boils down to the liberty of expression," Bonnici replied.

When told that Micallef was not expressing any opinion, but was rather mocking the last words of Caruana Galizia and when asked whether he believed any action should be taken against Micallef, Bonnici said that he always "urged for caution on sensitive issues to the country, not only with regards to Micallef but to everyone, but again I think it boils down to the right to express oneself, you cannot have a position where you only agree with the opinions you agree with.

 "I urge everyone to be cautious on the words one uses so no one is offended, but it is also an issue of the freedom of expression." 


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