The Malta Independent 6 August 2020, Thursday

TMID Editorial - Freedom of the press is not served a la carte

Wednesday, 17 October 2018, 10:33 Last update: about 3 years ago

Last Sunday, we reported how the phone logs of Pierre Darmanin show that he did not call Economy Minister Chris Cardona shortly after speaking to journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, as previously claimed in a media report.

Our information came from sources close to the murder investigation.

Our report jarred with another story published that week by La Repubblica, which is a member of the Daphne Project.

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La Repubblica had claimed that Daphne Caruana Galizia had received a call from Pierre Darmanin – who had previously been linked to fuel smuggling – and that, after he hung up, Darmanin called Chris Cardona and then Alfred Degiorgio, one of the three men accused of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.

But the phone logs of Pierre Darmanin and Daphne Caruana Galizia, which were seen by this newspaper, tell a different story. First of all it was Caruana Galizia who called Darmanin. Secondly, there was no call from Darmanin to Cardona, only one to Alfred Degiorgio.

These findings were reported by The Malta Independent on Sunday after speaking to investigation sources, both local and foreign. 

We discussed the information at length before publishing, and made it clear (including in our editorial last Sunday) that the report did not exonerate Cardona from La Repubblica’s other claim – that Cardona and Degiorgio had attended the same bachelor’s party in Fawwara.

We also made it clear that it could not be excluded that Darmanin had contacted Cardona on some unknown number. We did not write this as a form of disclaimer, as some claimed, but as a matter of fact – as part of the information that came from our sources.

Now, we are used to having people trying to discredit our stories – it happens on a daily basis in such a polarized country. Last week we were accused of being PN stooges. This week we were Labour stooges. Next week we will be PN stooges again.

But this time we were accused of fabricating a story by people who portray themselves as fighters for freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and even by other sections of the press.

Blogger Manuel Delia was quick to claim that our story was a “government leak”, while Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi said the story was “fabricated.” News portal Newsbook said TMIS and La Repubblica were “sparring” over the story, as if our intention was to discredit the Italian newspaper and not to inform our readers about the facts in our possession.

Newsbook also contacted La Repubblica journalist Carlo Bonini who, in an ‘exclusive’ comment described the TMIS story as ‘spin.’ But the Church’s news portal did not have the decency to contact anyone at The Malta Independent for a reaction – how is that for fair reporting?

For obvious reasons we will not reveal who our sources were, but we can definitely say that those who accused us of spin and fabrication have got it all wrong. If anyone has information to the contrary they are free to publish, but the truth of the matter is that we did not engage in spin or fabrication, only in facts, which is what every newsroom is supposed to do.  

All independent media houses, this one included, want justice for Daphne, but no-one should attack or single one newspaper out over a story simply because it is not to one’s liking.

We cannot claim to be fighting for freedom of expression and then use tactics that are not that different to what the government is being accused of using.

Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are not served a la carte. You either believe in that principle always or you just don’t. You cannot attack the credibility and integrity of a newspaper and its journalists just because a story does not fit your narrative.

Maybe it is the narrative that is wrong, and not the story.

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