Out of favour: Malta’s artistic community wants Valletta 2018 chairman Jason Micallef to resign

Malta’s leading artists, authors and actors say V18 chairman Jason Micallef must resign

V18 Foundation Chairman Jason Micallef
V18 Foundation Chairman Jason Micallef

Over 100 Maltese artists, authors, and actors have demanded the removal of Valletta 2018 chairman Jason Micallef.

The petition sent to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Justice and minister for justice and culture Owen Bonnici and the parliamentary secretary Deo Debattista, calls for the removal of Micallef – who is also chairman of the Labour media station One TV.

The letter was signed by the likes of novelists Immanuel Mifsud and Claire Azzopardi, Birkkuni frontman Mario Vella, and actress Pia Zammit.

“We, artists, authors and arts managers write to you to express our concern that the legacy of Valletta 2018 as European Capital of Culture is seriously jeopardised by the actions of Mr. Jason Micallef, Chairman of the Valletta 2018 Foundation.

“His ongoing derogatory public comments about the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia do not reflect the European objectives and principles of the Capital of Culture initiative.”

The artists said that the role of a chairman of a European Capital of Culture cannot be partisan in attitude and purposely divisive in action.

They recalled moments where Micallef “used his role as Chairman of the European Capital of Culture to publicly ridicule and attack artists who criticised and satirised those in power.”

“His role as Chairman should be to safeguard this right, not to threaten it. Using artists, culture and Valletta 2018 for political expedience is shocking and outrageous.”

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat yesterday told journalists that he supported Micallef, but said that it was important to moderate the tone of public discourse.  Muscat said that the issue was one of freedom of expression, and so did not condemn Micallef’s remarks.

“I have enormous faith in the leadership of V18, I believe the tone should be moderated, and this applies to everyone. We should listen to everyone, the freedom of expression applies to all, and there should be respect for each other. I noted what PEN said, as that what interests me the most, I don’t agree with their conclusions, and we are drafting a reply at the moment,” he said.

Micallef is a former secretary-general of the Labour Party whose post was abolished in 2009 by incoming leader Joseph Muscat, and then moved to One TV where he is still chairman. Micallef is a former television producer with the national broadcaster. 

Another 72 MEPsCivil society, and PEN international writers called for Micallef’s resignation.

Ulrich Fuchs, the Chairman of the committee that monitored  Valletta as European Capital for Culture in 2018, told the Malta Independent  that he would not attend any V18 event “as long as people representing the project destroy European values.”