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President leaves Labour online hate groups

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca says she was “surprised” to discover her membership of these groups despite Daphne Caruana Galizia flagging it twice

The President has ended her membership of the secretive and restricted Labour Party online groups two days after they were exposed in an investigation by The Shift News that revealed they were used to manufacture hate against dissidents and political opponents and target citizens.

“The President has consistently and unreservedly condemned any type of bullying or threats of violence irrespective of their source and vociferously advocates that such abhorrent sentiments have no place in Maltese society,” she said in a statement today.

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca also said her membership of these groups over seven years was “an unfortunate reality” of “those active in public life”. She had “no hesitation in disassociating herself” from these groups,” adding that she was “surprised to discover” that her name was in some way associated with them.

Daphne Caruana Galizia had written two posts on the President’s membership of these hate groups – one in March 2010 and another in May 2017. The President’s membership of these groups has been known for some years.

The President’s membership of the group before it was cancelled on Wednesday.
Two days after The Shift News exposed the groups, the President cancelled her membership.

The investigation also revealed that top members of government and party officials have been members of these hate groups for years. The President’s membership was the focus on a speech by Nationalist Party MP Jason Azzopardi in Parliament on Tuesday evening.

Alongside the Prime Minister and Labour leader himself, a minimum of eight senior staff working for him are members of Facebook groups containing violent comments, including the distribution of anti-corruption activists’ personal details and calls for them to be physically attacked, sexually assaulted, and stalked.

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The senior staff includes: Keith Schembri (the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff), Konrad Mizzi (Minister of Tourism), Chris Cardona (Minister of the Economy), Glenn Bedingfield (MP and consultant to the Prime Minister), Neville Gafa (consultant to the Prime Minister), Tony Zarb (consultant to the Prime Minister), Rosianne Cutajar (MP and communications coordinator in the Prime Minister’s Office), and Robert Musumeci (consultant to the Prime Minister’s Office).

Many of the comments appear to breach Malta’s Data Protection Act and Article 82A of the Criminal Code, which carries a term of imprisonment of six to 18 months for threatening, abusive or insulting words used to stir up violence.

Shooting up the law

Hatred parading as free expression