The Curia has taken exception to our report on the internal disagreement about the timing of the Pope’s visit to Malta just a week after the elections last month. They issued what they called a “right of reply” but distributed it to all the media in the form of a press release, claiming our story was incorrect and that we “heavily censored” replies they’d sent to our questions.
This is wrong on all counts. First, our story was correct and we stand by it absolutely. Indeed, on 10 April Newsbook published a report quoting Father Joe Borg as saying the same thing on Malta’s Apostolic Nuncio, Bishop Alessandro D’Errico, during a programme on 103 Malta’s Heart.
Second, responding to legitimate questions from journalists with PR blurb simply doesn’t cut it. The Curia’s responses to our questions were not “heavily censored”.
We had to point out that it is only the authorities that have the power to “censor” – a point the editors of the independent media seem to have missed when they grabbed the statement.
In the Curia’s so-called right of reply and our reply reproduced below, it is clear that what it defines as “heavily censored” was a line that stated that the Pope was welcomed by all. It was hardly a reply to the questions we were asking. We are publishing our reply to the statement.
It’s beyond time that Maltese people and institutions start to understand that we will not tolerate the seemingly endemic wool-pulling tactics they all seem to fall back on when faced with uncomfortable questions. If public figures or institutions answer straight, legitimate questions with obvious deviation attempts, we will not parrot those quotes to our readers as though they had any value. We will not be complicit in the general gaslighting of the Maltese population.
Third, if you issue a “right of reply,” you send that to the newsroom concerned. You do not distribute it to all media houses like a press release. That act alone smacks of bullying and coercion.
And of course, several of the media houses they sent this “right of reply” to obliged with alacrity. Other independent newsrooms, such as Malta Today and The Independent, jumped on the “right of reply” and suddenly remembered our organisation exists. They seem to forget to credit our stories they take as their own, but leapt at the opportunity to broadcast criticism of The Shift – and that’s what it takes to get our name in the headline.
Of course, Malta Today may have been trying to make a dig at us for our consistent attempts to uncover the truth about its owner, Saviour Balzan, and his vast number of contracts to provide various services to government ministries, ministers and agencies. They’re so desperate to hide those facts that as many as 40 government entities have filed appeals against Freedom of Information orders to provide the information we requested.
Across the world, journalists with integrity would never want any reader to be confused as to where the story came from, nor would they want to be seen to be plagiarizing anyone else’s work.
Here in Malta, no such rules seem to apply – at least, not across the board. While Lovin Malta and Newsbook are conscientious about crediting and linking to The Shift, as well as bloggers Mark Camilleri and Manuel Delia, when the mainstream independent media take on our stories, they don’t in most cases.
The lack of standards in Maltese journalism has become a truly insidious beast that has influenced the way the media here works in myriad deleterious ways. The offhand and dismissive manner in which the Curia responded to our questions is an attitude that’s been enabled by other media houses’ blind acceptance and obsequious reporting in the past.
We do not and we will not perpetuate that lazy, ineffectual pseudo-journalism. If the Curia wants its replies to be quoted in full, then it must ensure that it actually answers the questions asked. If it feels it needs to send a “right of reply” then it should do so in the proper manner, sending it to the organisation in question and not using it as an underhand tactic to gain alternative coverage of its failure to reply to questions.
And as for the rest of the independent media that should know this but choose to carry on ignoring it, it’s a sad indictment of what Malta’s become. Their compliance and, indeed, complicity, is what enables public figures to continue to gaslight and hoodwink the public.