What do you call a man found guilty by the courts of inciting racial hatred? A racist.
That’s what Andrew Azzopardi did. He called a convicted racist a racist. Somebody who incites racial hatred is, by definition, a racist. Azzopardi was loyal to the facts. His problem was that he is Andrew Azzopardi, and in recent years, he’s been far too critical of Labour.
So the Broadcasting Authority (BA) decided to teach him and the Church’s radio station RTK a lesson. The BA slapped RTK with a heavy fine of €6,410.
The decision is as bizarre as it is ominous. Azzopardi did nothing wrong by stating the bleeding obvious. Azzopardi repeated almost verbatim what the BA itself stated in the past.
In a previous ruling, the BA declared that it could not understand or accept that the public broadcaster provided space during prime time “to a person who is known for the fomenting of racial hatred and their offensive opinions”.
As recently as 2019, the BA fined Fliving €1,600 for interviewing Norman Lowell on its current affairs programme.
The real reason why Azzopardi is being castigated is not because he called Lowell a racist. Azzopardi is being targeted because of his open criticism of the Labour Party in government, and the Church is being penalised for giving Azzopardi air-time on its radio station.
Nobody in his right mind could argue with Azzopardi over his characterisation of Lowell. But the BA did just that and penalised Azzopardi for telling the truth – not only about Lowell but also about Labour.
The BA has evidently transformed into another submissive arm of the Labour Party, meting out public punishment to those who dare criticise Labour’s transgressions and obscenities. It publicly inflicts humiliation and financial penalties intended to instil a chilling effect on government critics.
And that’s just a first warning. The message to Azzopardi is clear – keep attacking Labour, and you’ll pay.
The BA found Azzopardi guilty of “unjust or unfair treatment” under Article 35 of the Broadcasting Act. RTK’s legal representative protested that the radio station had treated Lowell fairly, even inviting Imperium Europa’s representatives to RTK programmes, but the BA wasn’t interested.
The BA decided that Azzopardi’s comments were not simply an opinion but a declaration. “He could have made his argument without mentioning anyone,” the Authority said.
BA’s CEO Joanna Spiteri described Azzopardi’s comments as “threatening”. She must be pretty thin-skinned if she thinks that’s threatening.
Nobody can quite believe the BA. In which planet is referring to Lowell as a racist punished with such a hefty fine?
Just days earlier, the same BA concluded that “the quotations attributed to Professor Cassar in the bulletin (ONE News) were not found in Professor Cassar’s writing”.
In plain language, the BA found ONE News had lied about me in their news bulletin. They falsely claimed that I made statements about Labour supporters that I did not.
Their headline read, “Beppe Fenech Adami’s brother-in-law said that Labour supporters are the least educated in the country”. That was a blatant lie.
Even the Broadcasting Authority agreed.
The Labour Party’s channel ONE used lies to incite Labour supporters against me, and they used video clips of my children, not for the first time.
Yet Labour Party President Ramona Attard claimed, during the BA hearing, that she wasn’t aware of this. Well, she is now. Attard said she failed to comprehend why I was asking for a right of reply. The answer is simple – because of her Party’s ONE news lie.
The specific purpose of a right of reply is to clarify “incorrect facts”. That is stipulated in clause 8.15.4 of Subsidiary legislation 350.14 on “Requirements as to standards and practice applicable to news bulletins and current affairs programmes”.
Attard is a lawyer, and she should know this, but for a lawyer and president of the governing party, it seems there’s much she doesn’t know.
In an utterly perverse decision, despite confirming that ONE had lied about me, the BA decided to reject my complaint.
“This fact alone (that ONE had lied) does not merit this complaint being upheld because holistically, the reportage reflects what Professor Cassar had written about. For this reason, the complaint is being rejected”.
The BA’s rationale is that as long as ONE “holistically” reported about issues I discussed, it’s OK to throw in a few lies.
The BA knows its decision is illogical and not consistent with existing legislation, but the BA isn’t interested in protecting the truth. It does not seek to ensure news bulletins are factually correct or give citizens who’ve been lied about the opportunity to rectify incorrect facts. The BA is interested only in pleasing Labour.
The BA’s failure to categorically condemn ONE’s falsehoods and disinformation provides ONE with carte blanche to continue with its systematic harassment of its critics based on fabrications and lies. ONE didn’t waste any time.
In a country where a journalist’s barbaric assassination was enabled by Labour’s systematic demonisation and dehumanisation of Caruana Galizia, the BA has caved into Labour. Instead of doing its duty, the BA punishes the truth and rewards lies.