The Malta Independent 22 January 2021, Friday

Not books

Alfred Sant Thursday, 3 May 2018, 07:55 Last update: about 4 years ago

The more one compares Malta to other countries in the EU and outside it, the better one discovers how books and reading are well down in this country’s list of interests.

Elsewhere, leading papers regularly present sections that carry reports, discussions and reviews of books, new and old. The same happens with TV and radio stations. Sites on social media carry out similar tasks with enthusiasm and talent.

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The same cannot be said for Malta (and this is not the first time I’m making the point). Perhaps with the exception of It-Torċa in recent months, no paper carries a regular input dedicated to Maltese books or books published here. In the main, what gets printed has been written by the writers themselves or their publishers, operating in public relations mode.

Sometimes other cultural events do get better coverage, like concerts of popular and classical music, although such coverage too rarely reflects some editorial cohesion.

And so we go on bewailing the lack of cultural commitment in Malta, when that is, we are not busy trying to lobby this or that European cultural entity for it to criticise this part or some other part of the local cultural establishment.

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Fast track

It is a good thing that for certain economic projects which are considered to be of national benefit, priority is given to getting them implemented without delay.

Fast track procedures on this basis are commendable so long as they are transparent and still remain careful about the need to follow certain conditions, like concerning protection of the environment and preserving the historical heritage. Of course  strong criticism has arisen about them on numerous occasions.

However, it is not so clear that the same fast track system exists and is used in the case of projects having a social purpose -- as for instance for the construction of a school or of facilities for disabled citizens. If it does not exist yet, we need to introduce such a procedure.

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Anti-semitism

Anti-semitism is again on the rise in Europe as was shown some weeks ago with the barbaric murder of an old woman in Paris. All available means should be used, no holds barred, to snuff out this disgusting development.

At the same time, care should be taken not to commit the same mistake as in the past: that of considering disagreement with Israeli policies or the condemnation of certain policy directions followed by the state of Israel as antisemitic positions.

The controversy that erupted recently at the Free University of Brussels where the wellknown film director Ken Loach was to be awarded an honorary doctorate, provided an instance of this unacceptable equivalence. People -- including Belgian Prime Minister Michel -- protested against the honour being given to Loach on the grounds that he is antisemitic. In fact, the harsh statements Loach made over the years were incondemnation of Israel when it adopted measures that were in flagrant breach of international law.

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