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PM defends aide’s poison-pen blogging

Joseph Muscat has told MaltaToday that aide Glenn Bedingfield doesn’t attack anybody personally in his blog, and that the principle of freedom of expression meant he should be allowed to keep on blogging, regardless of his person-of-trust-role

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
22 February 2016, 8:35am
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has defended his aide Glenn Bedingfield, who has launched his own poison-pen blog against Labour critics.

Bedingfield’s blogs are a response to an onslaught of similar ad hominem missives from Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Malta Independent columnist who turns any Labour voter into a subject of derision.

Muscat told MaltaToday outside the PL headquarters that Bedingfield doesn’t attack anybody personally in his blog, and that the principle of freedom of expression meant he should be allowed to keep on blogging, regardless of his person-of-trust-role within the Office of the Prime Minister. 

“Are you saying that political appointees should not have a right to express their opinions?” Muscat asked, dismissing concerns that he endorsed Bedingfield’s views. “Are Bedingfield and myself one and the same person? For goodness’ sake, we share different views, and whether I agree with what he writes in his blog or not is not an issue.”

While Bedingfield’s right to express himself is uncontested, the aide – who handles the OPM’s PQ unit – regularly blogs during working hours. 

“This is all about freedom of expression, which states that everybody must shoulder responsibility for what they say and what they do,” Muscat said.

For readers who share Caruana Galizia’s prejudice when it comes to anything Labour, Bedingfield is intent on attempting a mirror image of the nastiness. His targets naturally include MPs, candidates, PN youth campaigners, and of course Caruana Galizia herself – who has entered the fray on his blog herself.

In one blogpost, he posted a photo of PN leader Simon Busuttil’s girlfriend Kristina Chetcuti celebrating a Valletta victory on the shoulders of football fans. Her back is to a man holding a paper placard with the words “better from behind”. It’s the kind of mirth that runs on malice, not wit.

Much like his assumed counterpart’s blog, Bedingfield has raided Facebook profiles and posted photos of critics in government postings or jobs. The message is clear: the political deterrent is balancing itself out on social media. 

Goose, gander

Muscat told MaltaToday when questioned that he drew parallels between Bedingfield and Antoine Vella, a former university lecturer who is a regular on online comments boards – not necessarily trollish, but equally ubiquitous.

“As a university lecturer, Antoine Vella also receives his salary from the public purse,” Muscat said with a chuckle. “I don’t think anybody has ever told him not to write against me and indeed he has every right to do so. However, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander…”

A former One News journalist, Bedingfield spent a year in the European Parliament by taking up Muscat’s seat when the Labour leader vacated it to take up his seat in the Maltese parliament. 

Gaffe-prone, Bedingfield last year was forced to apologise for a retweet in which it was suggested that Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ was more moderate than the Quran; and more recently, hitting out at Archbishop Charles Scicluna’s take on the PM’s New Year’s message with a link to clerical paedophilia.

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono is a journalist at MaltaToday
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