A new lobby group – Association of Media Owners (AMO) – was announced during the festive period, when people don’t pay much attention to the news.
The new lobby group of media owners has been set up to “protect and promote” the interests of its members. There seems nothing wrong with that until you realise that among the six media owners involved, there’s Media.Link owned by the Nationalist Party, and Sound Vision owned by the Labour Party.
Of course, you can question why only these six when we have many more media houses in Malta like NewsBook, LovinMalta, The Shift, Smash, and other smaller-sized entities. The criteria for membership of this exclusive club is: “full-time newsroom of at least seven journalists and three media workers.”
Seen from the perspective of an independent politician like me, what is worrying about this association is that political groups which are or can be in government (the PL and the PN) are part of this group set up to “protect and promote” the interests of its members.
Now, think about the problem Malta already has about the political control of the media. While LovinMalta is fighting a court case challenging NET and ONE’s impartiality, NET and ONE now are lobbying for their interest when they take turns running the government, then select their own people on the boards of authorities — a sickening, twisted and dangerous style of ‘democracy’ for Malta.
Malta’s supposedly democratic pillars keep getting dangerously eroded.
“AMO aims to ensure that any legislation enacted, or regulations issued by the government or authorities, will not endanger the prosperity or impair the welfare of its members and to promote, support or oppose, by creating a common front between the members, any legislative or other measures which affect the interests of the association and its members,” according to the statement.
Of course, these media houses survive on a lot of funding from the government through adverts for government and EU projects, while the smaller ones barely survive, hence their small size.
As Malta Today admitted, one of the association’s aims is to obtain and raise funding and other forms of financial assistance for the local print and digital media industry. Now think of the multi-million euro debts NET and ONE already have.
AMO also said: “It also aims to protect their moral and material rights and interests, to ensure the advancement of good quality journalism and hence solidifying the fundamental right of freedom of information”.
Despite the fact that they do have some good journalists on board who think that ONE, NET (and even PBS) have any morals or good quality journalism when we know they are completely biased and good at twisting truths and telling half stories to satisfy and appease their political masters?
This association will be lobbying the government of the day to obtain public funds for the bankrupt political channels NET and ONE. So, basically, the independent politician Arnold Cassola will be paying his taxes to keep his political adversaries PL and PN’s channels afloat and safe from bankruptcy so that NET and ONE will, in turn, do all in their power to ensure that Cassola’s political message is never broadcast and that he is banished from their stations.
What the Italians and the Maltese call “sopra corna (exiled from NET and ONE +PBS) …. bastonate” (paying them myself to banish me)!
Of course, the implications for an independent political voice like mine could also be valid for other third-party political opinions.
As for the independent media outlets members of this association, as an example, Times of Malta says: “The company’s participation in this association will, therefore, have absolutely no impact on Times of Malta’s journalism. Furthermore, the editorial is free to scrutinise the operations of the new association, as is the case with all other local organisations.”
Knowing several Times’ journalists personally, I can vouch that, as serious professionals, they will stick to their journalistic mission. On the other hand, I absolutely cannot vouch for some of the company’s directors who, in the past, were more busy attending a Pilatus wedding in Florence or messing about with the ‘Capo dei capi’ crook, Keith Schembri and taking his bribes.
Unfortunately, the six exclusive members of the new association club have already failed their first little test by opting not to publish my press release highlighting my concerns about the new association.
Of course, I could be wrong in my worries, but when diverging opinions risk being obliterated ‘a priori’ by the independent press, then I believe we have a problem.
This does not bode well for honest citizens in Malta who desperately want to see a transparent government and a truly free press.