Abela: come clean on media freedom

While in Malta we need to see through a media reform which truly protects journalists, in Brussels the European Commission has presented a new law to ensure that no government in power controls media houses

If there is one thing in which this government certainly excels it is undoubtedly the skill of subtle deceit; the sly machination of reaching the ultimate goal unbeknownst both to the unwitting and not least the hawkish spectator alike.

There is no smoke without a fire, and no doubt the rumbling in the grapevine regarding the abolition of over-the-air antennae is no mere rumour. It is much rather the tip-toeing of plans which are underway; the sounding of the ground before striking another blow to the freedom of access to information and moreover, and most likely, to create another golden business opportunity for some lackey roaming in the jungle of corruption that assails our society.

Sooner or later a significant section of low-income earners will be deprived of their right to free access to information; a fundamental necessity for every citizen to be kept aware of how their way and quality of life is being managed or rather manipulated by the forces that be; a deterrent for allowing the people to become gullible and therefore facilitating the path for the regime to ride roughshod over the rights of those same citizens who entrusted it with power.

These are the known tactics of dictatorships; of authorities that are estranged from the salient values of democracy and are certainly alien to the EU principles which advocate that member states are to ensure a minimum of free access to information for all citizens through TV services at no cost. Indeed, democracy is gradually being corroded under our very eyes, both blatantly as well as craftily, whilst illegalities constantly creep in, becoming evidently institutionalised.

And, whilst the beckoning for safeguarding our quality of life is persistently clamouring on the airwaves, the alert must essentially reach out to those TV viewers who will be deprived not only from their right to be informed, but more importantly from a basic component of their quality of life; the solace which they derive from the services rendered by TV to the elderly, the lonely, and the less affluent who will be the hardest hit should such plans materialise.

We must not forget how much it cost the past generations to defend democracy – the infamous Foreign Interference Act introduced by the Labour government in 1985, the consequent flight into a self-imposed exile of Richard Muscat and the related sufferings of many. Moreover, let us not forget that the provision of that vital information to which we have a right to freely access depends on the unrestrained expression of journalists, the fourth pillar of democracy which, at all costs, we must not allow to crumble.

As we commemorated the fifth anniversary of the most abhorrent crime ever inflicted on a journalist who dared to unravel the realities of a string of corrupt practices – our own Daphne Caruana Galizia – let us ponder how the obstruction of access to information, in any form, be it the limitation of technological means or the silencing of journalists who champion the truth, can only but continue to erode the patriotic values of a people beleaguered by apathy.

While in Malta we need to see through a media reform which truly protects journalists, in Brussels the European Commission has presented a new law to ensure that no government in power controls media houses. The new European media freedom law in fact described the imperative value in a democracy of ensuring that boards of directors of public TV companies and head of news of public TV are not handpicked by the government of the day. Reminds you of something? It should. In Malta the PBS management board and the head of news are indeed handpicked from Castille.

The Labour government should tell us how they intend to negotiate the national interest in regard to this new law in Brussels.

Will they try to water it down to keep their grip on PBS notwithstanding this has been condemned to gross imbalance by our own courts? PM Abela should come clean and disclose the Malta position on this and stop hiding behind the closed doors of the European Council.

As an MEP candidate I will keep the scrutiny on Government on this area along with a series of other issues that I follow and push consistently over the past years.

I believe that our representation in Europe can go a long way into changing governance and society in Malta. I will keep on bringing new energy and technical competence to secure this change happens asap, for all our citizens.