The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Politicians and cheeseburgers

Friday, 4 December 2020, 08:44 Last update: about 3 months ago

We have asked these questions several times in our newsroom meetings – why is it so hard for us to get the truth from politicians? Why does it take so much for politicians to be honest? Why cannot they be more open in their replies?

It is our job to ask questions, and not to take matters at face value, but it is impossible to get politicians to be clear in their answers. They find it easy to speak out to the more gullible and stay within their comfort zone, but then seek a quick escape when faced with questions on more relevant matters.

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Unless the question is planted by some friendly journalist or a reporter from media owned by the political party to which the politicians belong, they tend to stutter and stumble each time they are confronted by a persistent journalist with the right questions about serious situations and prepared with the right follow-ups.

They go round in circles, are unable to give a direct answer even to simple “yes or no” questions, or make bland, clichéd statements that open avenues into more questions. The more they are cornered, the more they appear flustered and unable to come up with convincing answers.

Often they come across as arrogant and when they go on the defensive, it appears more likely that they have done something wrong. They pick on a misplaced word to hit back at the journalists and always put the blame on others, or point fingers at their political rivals who in their minds would have committed a worse sin, but they are never in the wrong and aim to justify what is often unjustifiable.

So as not to appear anti-media, they mellow their utterances with phrases such as “I believe that the media should continue to do its job” or “I understand that journalists are trying to do their job”, but then they are unable to get anywhere close to answering questions decently. If you ask about oranges they reply about bananas.

This is not a new phenomenon. It has been like this since politicians started facing journalists; there was always this battle between the two sides – politicians know they need journalists to get their message across, but the moment journalists, as is their duty, stray from the narrative the politicians want to convey, then the politicians transform themselves into robots with their repetitive so-called answers which are no answers at all.

This phenomenon has grown further in the past years as journalists took to door-stepping politicians in a bid to elicit something more from them when a development, which often is something that politicians want to ignore or sweep under the carpet, takes place. Politicians like to call them ambushes, but they are no ambushes at all – it’s the journalists’ way to seek answers when these are not forthcoming. If politicians are more open, and not so economical with the truth, then there would be no need for such exercises.

But expecting honesty from politicians is like expecting to taste a cheeseburger when you are biting into an apple.

 

 

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