Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Monday evening in Parliament that he had abandoned his seven-year membership of Labour secret online groups peddling hate and inciting violence that were exposed by The Shift News after a six-month investigation.
Muscat was replying to a parliamentary question on Monday evening in Parliament by former PN leader Simon Busuttil.
In a recent reply to a similar question a few weeks ago, Muscat avoided saying whether he had left the groups, insisting he was added without his consent. But The Shift News had shown that he joined one of the largest groups through his personal Facebook account when he was still Opposition Leader.
The Shift News had exposed the Prime Minister’s misleading statements, showing he still refused to leave the groups.
This time, The Shift News can confirm the Prime Minister did leave the secret groups used by the Labour Party to spread government propaganda and silence criticism by targeting citizens, dissidents and journalists.
An investigation by The Shift News into six of the biggest pro-Muscat Facebook groups – numbering 60,000 members – found coordinated attacks on anti-corruption activists, Daphne Caruana Galizia and her family, including calls for sexual violence.
The information was compiled with the help of whistleblowers working with The Shift News in the groups, who gained access to restricted and secret membership groups.
President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca left and condemned the groups a few days after The Shift News revealed the groups a month ago. It took that long for the Prime Minister, and there are at least eight senior staff working for him that remain members of these 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.
The groups’ administrators include people working at the Justice and Education Ministries, paid by taxpayers.
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.
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).
Read more: Labour’s secret online groups