Representatives of the world’s leading press freedom groups are in Malta again on a fruitless mission to lobby the government to do something other than stall efforts to achieve justice and accountability for Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Little has been done to change the toxic situation in the five years since the car bomb that sent shock waves around the world, but much has been done to make things worse.
The promised judicial reforms, helpfully outlined in the report of the public inquiry into the journalist’s assassination, remain either undone or done in a way that slaps slipshod curtains over a broken window in the hopes the EU won’t see what’s going on inside.
Recent attempts to ram through a ‘media reform’ bill without public consultation were even more blatant.
So much is contained in a name. Contrast Malta’s self-described ‘media reform’ with the EU’s new ‘Media Freedom Act’, legislation that European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová said was inspired by her visit to the site of Caruana Galizia’s death.
Unfortunately for Prime Minister Abela, he’s learned that you can’t fool all the people all the time no matter how insistently you call a turd the finest chocolate.
Government propaganda outlets from One to Malta Today are pushing the story that the government’s “groundbreaking” and “highly innovative” media proposals — their words, not mine — are being rammed through parliament after broad public consultation and public debates.
Did some cunning Labour Baldrick use the ol’ Nexia BT / Mossack Fonseca strategy of backdating documents to invent events that never took place?
The only innovative thing about this entire charade is how innovative they’re being at smearing lipstick on a pig.
Abela seems to think people will believe in his reform if he just repeats it often enough. Unfortunately for him, the authorities in Brussels actually read the fine print. It doesn’t help that this government talks media freedom from one side of its mouth while dog piling The Shift in court to block legitimate FOI requests from the other. They’ve innovated a new way to SLAPP under another name.
Needless to say, Abela’s attempt to attract positive international press just in time for the fifth anniversary of the murder of his predecessor’s most determined critic has failed spectacularly, leaving him without a smokescreen as he tries to balance the rage Labour stoked in its base with the outrage Malta’s inaction has stoked abroad.
The prime minister can’t attend official events commemorating Caruana Galizia without angering Labour supporters who were taught to hate a person whose work most had never read. But he can’t not attend those events either. Not without undermining all his smokescreen talk of reform.
Caught on the horns of this dilemma, Abela has chosen to hold a Labour Party rally on the very day of the fifth anniversary of Caruana Galizia’s brutal murder — a contract killing allegedly carried out by people connected to the very same government Abela inherited.
While the Archbishop celebrates a mass for the deceased in Bidnija and the President of the European Parliament speaks at a vigil for justice in Great Siege Square, the leader of the Labour Party will be rallying his troops.
Both the Slovak and German presidents were in Malta last week for meetings of the Arraiolos Group. Both took a moment to pay their respects, respectively, at a memorial to the journalist in her hometown of Sliema and at the memorial in Great Siege Square. In fact, it was the Slovak president’s first order of business in Malta.
In the world of diplomacy, such actions are strong statements. But in a country where the order to stop selling EU passports is stubbornly interpreted as a misunderstanding, hints fall on deaf ears.
Perhaps Abela is hoping each audience will only see what it wants to see in his actions. Labour stalwarts will interpret the rally as a show of defiance. And if Abela played his soiled cards right, visiting dignitaries won’t notice his absence from anniversary events, or at worst won’t understand what political Party rallies mean to Maltese who lived through the 1980s.
Unfortunately, all the compromised media outlets on the island won’t hide the fact that the only government that refuses to commemorate Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sacrifice is her own.