The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: Instigating hatred against journalists

Wednesday, 15 May 2024, 10:14 Last update: about 11 days ago

It seems that what happened in 2017 has been forgotten by Prime Minister Robert Abela.

Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated in October that year after a monstrous campaign had been created against her as she was exposing, one scandal after another, what the Labour government was up to.

At the time, the hate crusade that had been instigated against her had escalated sharply, spearheaded by top exponents of a movement that had taken over the reins of the country with the slogan “Malta taghna lkoll”, but which turned out to be the opposite of what they had preached.

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Nearly seven years after her murder, what Daphne used to write about is still making it to the headlines, as we can see with the developments on the infamous hospitals’ deal.

A public inquiry that had been reluctantly appointed by then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had found that the State had been responsible for her assassination. The State had failed to recognise the risks that Daphne was facing, and did not take reasonable steps to eliminate them. So far, the recommendations in the inquiry report have not been implemented.

Today, another drive seems to be in place. The hatred against journalists has reared its head again. If, until October 2017, Daphne was the focal point of attacks from the Labour end, today it is a whole group of journalists who are the target of attacks coming from the government side.

With the exception of Labour Party media and the national broadcasting station – so aligned to the government that often it appears to serve as its mouthpiece – journalists are again being attacked simply for doing their job, and for asking the right questions.

In the past few days, the Institute of Maltese Journalists felt the need to twice issue a statement to defend the profession, urging the Prime Minister not to “imply” that journalists are “enemies of the State”, and that Abela should lead by example and “should not instigate hate towards journalists and the media”.

The Prime Minister, Robert Abela, is the one leading the pack in the attacks on the media. And, with his words and behaviour, he is inciting others to follow in his footsteps. That we have arrived at a point when pictures are taken of a journalist’s open laptop while she is following a press conference is all happening because Abela has opened the door to such behaviour.

Abela is adding fuel to the raging fire, especially with comments that journalists are asking questions sent to them by what he likes to call the “establishment” – his new favourite word which impresses his grassroots, but not the rest of us. We tell the PM that we do not need any prodding to ask pertinent questions. We think with our own minds.

It is then ironic for the Prime Minister to tell his supporters not to fall for provocation and to tell the Opposition Leader to change his tone – when he, Abela, is the one who is using an approach that is inflaming tension, rather than leading to “calm” – his second most favourite word. The problem is that, while he is advocating this calm, in other interventions, sometimes within the same speeches, he is doing the opposite.

Maybe he should listen to his own words.

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