Waking up this morning to the prospect of a further five years of a PL government, elected in a resounding victory for the third consecutive time, was strangely eerie. There was no doubt it would happen – the Maltese electorate has made clear over the past few years where its preference lay. But the sense of rushing headlong towards catastrophe has intensified, despite the ominous calm.
Whether the electorate’s choice indicates a population that actively wants a corrupt administration or whether it was because the opposition was so weak will be debated in detail in the coming weeks. However, in the meantime, The Shift will continue its task of holding the government to account and demanding justice for assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
As the only truly independent newsroom on the island, the only one that did not make money out of this election by rejecting political adverts and paid content as thinly-veiled propaganda, The Shift has spent the past four years exposing and documenting the rampant, unrestrained corruption of the PL government ministers, parliamentary secretaries and officials, as well as highlighting wrongdoing in politicians from all sides. The attempts to stymie and hinder us from doing our jobs have been legion.
Lies, smear campaigns, attacks – from all sides – have become par for the course. We put our heads down and get on with our sole purpose, to uncover and deliver the truth to our readers. That won’t change. And it includes exposing government agents masquerading as ‘independent journalists’.
Saviour Balzan’s blog today is reminiscent of the follow-up to the 2017 general elections when, the morning after the swearing-in of the prime minister, the editorial in L-Orizzont named specific journalists “traitors”, “spineless agents of the opposition” who are “full of hate”, who must “bow their heads to the people’s choice” and “disappear”.
Daphne Caruana Galizia, one of the journalists named, was then brutally assassinated. Saviour Balzan was at the forefront of attacks against her.
This morning, Saviour Balzan, Malta’s opportunist par excellence who’s supposed to have resigned – twice – saw fit to throw a jab in our direction, by attempting to associate The Shift with activist group Repubblika and blogger Manuel Delia, lumping us together and accusing us of ‘prejudice’ and acting as a reference point for the PN’s policies.
We’ve made it clear over the years that we are not in any way affiliated with the PN, Repubblika or Manuel Delia, and indeed, have been the targets of hate speech and vicious smear campaigns from their own supporters, when we criticised or questioned individuals associated with those groups.
So Balzan’s throwaway line, a cheap and transparent attempt to undermine the very foundations of our work, is not only completely incorrect but deliberately misleading.
Balzan has his own reasons for attempting to undermine us by associating us with PN policies and what he calls “prejudice”.
The Shift is the only publication in Malta to expose Balzan as the fraud he is. One of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s most vicious attackers during her lifetime, Balzan sold his soul to disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat and his motley crew of crooks for more than a million euros.
Just how much more than a million euros, we’re trying very hard to find out. Balzan, and his chums within the PL government – the ministers who employ him as a “consultant,” the government departments who use him for “PR,” the officials who pay him out of taxpayer funds to advise them on media issues – are doing their best to prevent us from uncovering the true extent of Balzan’s bounty.
In October last year, we revealed that Saviour Balzan had received more than a million euros in government contracts under the PL government. However, we were unable to determine the full amount he’d hoovered up, as several government ministries and agencies refused to pass on the information we requested.
This meant we were forced to file Freedom of Information requests, appealing to the Data Protection Commissioner to try to get the missing details in order to be able to report the full extent of his involvement with the PL government.
Our FOI requests were successful and the Data Protection Commissioner ordered the information to be made available to us.
Instead of complying, though, these ministers and departments, 30 of them, one by one, filed identical appeals against the order, making it clear that this was a concerted effort to block The Shift’s efforts to uncover the truth.
Thirty appeals, all of which have to be battled in court, tying up our time and our resources – and all part of a deliberate, cynical attempt to hide the truth and block the independent media from its rightful access to information. All, to protect Saviour Balzan’s commercial interests and his servility to the government.
And who’s at the centre of this attempt to withhold crucial information from the media? None other than the beneficiary of all those taxpayer euros: Saviour Balzan, himself – with the clear coordination of the Labour machine.
Business 2 Business Ltd, a company solely owned by Media Today’s Saviour Balzan, was also handed a 15-year lease for premises within the government-owned industrial estate in the Mosta Technopark. His lease was also accompanied by a side letter from former Malta Industrial Parks CEO Karl Azzopardi, which provided Balzan with a 10-month window from January to October 2020 in which he paid just €1 per month.
The self-serving, flip-flopping, supposed ‘journalist’ attempting to deceive the populace into believing he founded an “independent newsroom” is simultaneously seeking to prevent the truly independent media from accessing the information it has the right to see and publish, in the public interest.
The implications of this third PL victory for the Maltese media are dire. And Saviour Balzan, incredibly, a government-picked representative on the “media experts committee” set up to implement the media reform required by the recommendations of the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, made sure this morning that everyone knows it.
No, Saviour Balzan, calling out hypocrisy, dishonesty, corruption and thievery is not “prejudice”. It’s our job, our duty to the nation and to the people to whom we pledged to bring the truth. We will continue to do it. We will discover how much of the taxpayer’s hard-earned money you’ve grabbed, and we will expose your duplicity and deceit in doing it.
The election’s over, and we’re getting back to business, even more determined than ever.