Almost six years to the day since Daphne Caruana Galizia was brutally assassinated, Justice Minister Jonathan Attard launched a scathing attack on journalists. Two years later, a public inquiry found Labour ministers collectively responsible for “creating a favourable climate for anyone seeking to eliminate her.” Attard is now doing the same.
On Andrew Azzopardi’s radio programme, Attard launched a hysterical assault on journalists who uncovered a massive scheme through which driving test candidates referred by Labour ministers and their officials were fast-tracked, helped and even awarded their licence despite being dangerous behind the wheel.
Instead of condemning the manifest criminality, Attard opened a hostile barrage on journalists. He accused them of willfully “creating a situation far bigger than it actually is”. He ascribed bad intentions to those journalists, insisting they aimed to “strangle the link between the people and the politician”.
Minister Attard represents the state. He is a cabinet minister with one of the most important portfolios, responsible for implementing many of the recommendations of the Caruana Galizia inquiry intended to protect journalists. Instead, he engages in a full frontal assault on the vulnerable group he’s tasked to protect.
Andrew Azzopardi challenged Attard, who defended the obscene licencing racket organised by Labour’s customer care apparatus. Attard insisted there was nothing to it. He echoed his master’s voice, claiming politicians are “duty bound to help citizens”.
So could he explain how a minister could “help” a candidate whose test date was set for the next day by sending a message to Transport Malta officials stating “, Take care of him for me”? Attard, of course, had no answer. Or rather, he knew perfectly well the answer: Ian Borg was committing a crime by abusing his power to coerce the official to pass the candidate irrespective of his ability and the potential danger to the public.
Attard lost it. He resorted to his default ONE strategy – rudeness, shouting, and threats. “Let me tell you”, he screeched, “there are ongoing procedures in court, orrajt”. “I’m not going to discuss who said what”, he rebutted.
Of course, you’re not. Those messages are undeniable evidence of your colleague’s brazen abuse and explicit solicitation to his officials to commit a crime.
Then Attard turned his guns onto Labour’s perennial enemy – the truth-seekers, the journalists.
Attard, the man meant to legislate to protect journalists, led a vicious assault against them. He accused them of inflating things to damage the relationship between the government and the people. He impugned them with wanting to harm citizens by depriving them of that vital link to benevolent Labour ministers. His hostility and aggression against journalists seeped through the airwaves.
His evident repugnance of those journalists who exposed Labour’s treachery was palpable as he trembled with rage. They are the enemy of the people, was the Minister’s message. Attard is demonising journalists.
“Lawyers complain that the €10,000 maximum penalty for libel is not high enough”, he shouted. Here is the minister of justice lobbying for harsher penalties for those who dare criticise Labour.
He wants to punish them far more harshly than the current law allows. He wants to warn them that if it were up to him, he would multiply that €10,000 fine to ensure nobody dares utter a word of dissent. Or maybe he could freeze their bank accounts as Chris Cardona did to Caruana Galizia.
Attard wants to create a chilling effect on whoever dares voice his criticism of Labour.
“They say there’s a media crisis in Malta. What crisis? Everyone writes what they like in Malta”, he screamed in utter disgust.
Attard is shocked that people write what they like in a European Union member state. He’s disappointed that people aren’t being rounded up for expressing themselves. Attard is furious that they “write what they like”.
The minister responsible for introducing legislation to strengthen the media thinks there’s no media crisis because people say what they like. A healthy media environment requires far more, but Attard wouldn’t know because he cut his teeth at ONE.
Maybe he should start by reading the Caruana Galizia inquiry recommendations to realise he hasn’t even started addressing that media crisis. How can the minister who publicly states there’s no media crisis even begin to address that crisis? Mainly when he publicly contributes to it with his fierce attack on journalists.
He should be “introducing a legal framework to protect journalists”. His government ensures taxpayers’ money “used for government advertising in the media is distributed fairly”. He should reform the Freedom of Information Act “to limit the culture of secrecy on the pretext of privacy and commercial sensitivity”.
That would help address the media crisis and give journalists the right to access information.
Instead, Labour is on a long-term strategy of secrecy. It squanders hundreds of thousands of our money to prevent us from discovering how many millions they’ve paid Saviour Balzan. All information must be dragged out of them through FOI requests, tribunal appeals, and court proceedings intended to bankrupt media organisations.
The Caruana Galizia inquiry recommended that the state protect journalists. Instead, Attard, a representative of that state, intimidates journalists publicly.
“Politicians reacted to her substantially accurate writings….with a sustained campaign of personal attacks”, the inquiry found. Jonathan Attard is doing the same.
“There was an orchestrated plan to neutralise the investigative journalism of Caruana Galizia… the plan could only succeed because it was centrally organised by the prime minister’s office”. Only the prime minister has changed. Labour hasn’t. When journalists reveal the truth, Labour makes them an enemy to be targeted.
We all know how that ended six years ago. But does Jonathan Attard care? Does the Istitut tal-Gurnalisti Maltin care?
A vigil will be held this evening at 19:30 at Great Siege Square in Valletta