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Burying the inconvenient truth

Freedom of speech is only protected by the government when the concept is used as a shield against criticism

who killed daphne caruana galizia

Magistrate Anthony Vella, in charge of the inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia is set to be promoted, removing him from the case.

As the successor to the investigation remains unknown, one thing is apparent: we are eight months into the investigation yet the truth and ultimately conviction keeps getting conveniently postponed.

After Daphne’s murder, Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat publicly described the tragedy as a “barbaric attack on freedom of expression that goes against every sense of decency and civility”. Yet throughout the investigation it has become clear that the government’s sense and sensibility for the expression of truth remain in the form of mere promises.

Magistrate Anthony Vella was determined to see the investigation through and the unrequested promotion both opens the question of whether the government is interested in the truth coming out and immediately answers it with a resounding no.

Back in October of 2017, the government offered one million euros for information that would lead to the prosecution of Daphne’s murderers. But that interest in the truth either faded rapidly since then or more likely was never truly sincere.

The efforts to unveil the truth or in support of freedom of speech are all framed in an effort to maintain a good public image. Meanwhile Muscat’s and his government’s true opinion shines through the cracks the media manages to report upon.

Such as through the investigation by The Shift News into six pro-labour Facebook groups it was shown that in these private circles, where politicians can interact with supporters away from the view of the media, complaints of barbaric attacks are nowhere to be seen. Instead they were replaced with celebration of the death of the  “witch of Bidnija.”

Freedom of expression is a phrase they will only protect when it suits their agenda and politicians will not miss any opportunity to misuse the concept to their own advantage. As is further demonstrated by the recent twitter exchange between Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar and Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes.

When the Labour MP was shamed after drawing comparisons between the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal and the investigation into Daphne’s death, she found no problem in accusing Gomes that her freedom of speech was impinged. An absurd point to raise, but it demonstrates the way in which the concept is abused to allow politicians to play the victim.

In fact, the problem that crystallizes from such exchanges is that freedom of speech is only protected by the government when the concept is used as a shield against criticism. Similarly truth is only respected if it unquestionably frames the government in a positive way.

Truth will remain a declaration used merely for PR purposes and maintaining a positive reputation. Meanwhile, the dichotomy between that reputation and the actual actions of the government are omnipresent.

For example, it is also present in the attitude towards whistleblowers. While Malta has some of the most comprehensive legal framework on protection of whistleblowers out of all of the EU Member States, its true colours come out in the refusal to grant whistleblower status.

Instead of being granted the protection she deserves whistleblower Maria Efimova, continues to fear extradition to Malta and consequently her life. The government can easily show off the comprehensive legislation supporting whistleblowers, yet it refuses to acknowledge when somebody deserves the title.

Thereby not only can government maintain an enviable legislative position, it can also maintain a system of intimidation as the cases of Efimova and former FIAU investigator Jonathan Ferris shows the clear detrimental consequences of whistleblowing. It shows that the government continuously manipulates facts until the truth suits their agenda.

Furthermore, as long as the government can manipulate the public to believe in its false consideration for the truth it will avoid not only true criticism, but also any true political accountability.  The Labour administration may continue to express grand sentiments about revealing the truth but as long as it could result in its liability, it will continue to dig a deeper grave for that truth to hide in.

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