PEN Malta riled at prison historian’s Hitler glorification being given TVM platform

TVM removes programme from its online platform, National Book Council says book glorifying Hitler had already been excluded from Book Prize long-list

Prison historian Ronald Bugeja
Prison historian Ronald Bugeja

The national broadcaster has been accused of giving indiscriminate room to the author of an uncritical work on Nazi-fascism and the author of the Holocaust, the German dictator Adolf Hitler, by Malta’s community of writers.

PEN Malta demanded explanations and for immediate action from TVM and the minister responsible for it, Owen Bonnici, regarding a programme that promoted and recommended the book “Mein Führer Adolf Hitler, L-Istorja u l-Bijografija” without any hint of critical appraisal.

The book is written by Ronald Bugeja, a prison official and historian who has also appeared various other times on TVM programmes as a guest.

TVM has since removed the programme from its online platform, after newspapers reported the statement.

In the programme Ħajjitna Ktieb of 23 March, produced and presented by John Demanuele, TVM promoted Bugeja’s book, without Demanuele posing any critical questions about the dangerous revisionism of this book, which glorifies and justifies Hitler and the actions of the civil and military Nazi administration in Germany in the 20th century.

“Among the many despicable policies of violence and discrimination that the book ignores or justifies, the author defends the burning of books written by authors who disagreed with the regime. The author recommends this as a good policy,” PEN Malta said.

PEN Malta said it was shocked and disgusted by the public broadcaster, which far from carrying out its mission of holding an informed and critical public debate, was serving as a pulpit for Nazi ideas that are the exact opposite of the values of democracy, freedom of thought and information.

“Everyone has a right to their opinion, but the public broadcaster’s duty is to know history, to point out lies and deceit, and to promote values of democracy and tolerance,” said PEN Malta President Immanuel Mifsud. “What we have here is a serious insult to the Maltese public, which funds TVM, and an even greater insult to all the victims of this historic violence and crimes against humanity by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. We demand from TVM and minister Bonni immediate investigation into how this programme came to be broadcast and to tell us what actions they will take to prevent this from ever happening again.

“We are also seriously worried to note that the author of this infamous book thanked the National Book Council. We sincerely hope that this book was not financed by public funds, but if that is the case, then the council needs to shoulder responsibility – whether it funded it out of stupidity or, more shockingly, if it did so out of ideological Nazi sympathies.”

According to checks on the online database for the Malta Book Fund from 2020, 2021 and 2022, the book was not funded by the National Book Council fund.

The National Book Council said it had given no sort of funding of the book, except for providing the publication with an ISBN number.

The NBC also said it Bugeja’s book had been excluded from the National Book Prize long-list, published on 4 April, upon legal advice.

“The Council took this decision due to the content of the book and the ethics that inform this action, as well as the legal repercussions of being associated with a bookthat promotes or approves of the Holocaust, as prohibited by Article 82B of the Criminal Code,” the Council said.

In a comment to MaltaToday, the ministry for culture said it was not aware of the programme prior to its broadcast. “The ministry definitely does not condone the declarations made by the author of the book. PBS is an independent corporate body endowed with editorial discretion and the structures of PBS operate independently from the ministry. The ministry is informed that PBS is currently investigating this incident.”