Don’t be impolite and ask about sources

It seems that Andreotti’s association with the Mafia, and his implication in the assassination of journalist Mino Pecorelli, did nothing to dampen Casa’s infatuation with the divine Giulio

Giulio Andreotti, an Italian politician and statesman who served as the 41st Prime Minister of Italy
Giulio Andreotti, an Italian politician and statesman who served as the 41st Prime Minister of Italy

The rush of adrenaline is part of working in a newsroom. I guess it is something that has kept many people including myself, in this line of work. But undoubtedly it also served to push others out of this job, to calmer and quieter pastures.

Some have made it their life, others have just moved on.

In the last four years I have moved away from the frontline but made it a point to keep myself in the midst of things. I still love to report and write, and meet people and listen to their stories. And I am excited when I know a story can change the life of people… in a good way.

Last Friday as I waited in court to give testimony, I received the news of the Christchurch massacre. Nothing seems to shock me anymore, even though every time you read such news you lose more faith in society. As I read the news I received a video of the shooting. I purposely avoided seeing it and just passed it on to the newsroom. Over the years I have protected myself from these video scenes, the beheading of some captive, the dead bodies of drowned children… I guess it stems from my first years in journalism when I was at the scene of a horrendous fireworks factory explosion. The images of the charred body parts still haunt me today.

An hour later after having given testimony in Court, I wondered why the newsroom had not uploaded the video. It was only then I realised that the video was in fact live footage of the murders by the killer himself.

The newsroom had shown restraint and responsibility. The news that evening was also about the responsibility of social media platforms and media outlets. 

A useful discussion I think, but one that is taking place far too late in the day.

The media, as we all know, is vying to be there at the top; any clickbait that can capture audiences is usually a recipe for some awful judgement. Screening this video is the example of a big mistake.

But this sensationalism is not the only problem facing the media. This week I posted a video blog on the state of the media and took issue with the state of broadcasting in Malta. I too am a participant in this media circus, and it is no secret that I have an interest in being there together with others.

I also know that the audience we serve is restless and wants entertainment all the time. Even when the subject is simply boring. But when it comes to State broadcasting, there is a fundamental issue which we have not addressed. Do we want TVM to be a serious broadcaster, the pale shadow of RAI 1, or some replica of Italia Uno?

If the gauge of every TV station is based on what every single programme rakes in, then we are surely heading towards a warped understanding of public broadcasting. Surely entertainment is essential in this product development, but a national broadcaster needs to take a visionary look and understand that the role goes beyond the song and the slapstick.

Ever since the Austin Gatt reforms in public broadcasting we have not had a chance to revisit the very serious question of how and what public broadcasting should offer and stand for. And surely the Rai and BBC models are more of a noble goal than then the potpourri we have today. Are we doing this? I think there is a sentiment out there that we need to go that extra mile.

It is high time that we address the future and functionality of State broadcasting and see this in an ever-changing media environment where private and political entities cannot survive without compromising themselves. And compromising is also about bending backwards, giving the audiences what they want, when in truth we should be providing good quality material.

                                                                 ***

On Friday I gave testimony in a case related to what MEP David Casa said in a reply to questions put to him last year by MaltaToday. Casa was at the centre of declarations by a whistleblower who not only accused him of being a habitual cocaine user, but also of camouflaging expenses.

The reaction by Casa was to enter into the usual accusations that we were part of a ploy by Castille to destroy him because of his political stand. It never ceases to amuse me how this argument is never used when we take to task Castille, Muscat or his ministers on issues far more serious, such as political accountability and corruption.

Casa believes that questions about political responsibility, allegations of corruption and ethics is something only he can talk about. It would be the case, if Casa had a history of questioning many of the political misdemeanours that took place under the PN administration. Casa was, of course, nowhere to be seen then… except in Brussels, making sure he keeps that seat warm.

Casa knows that if we were to be presented with evidence of drug abuse and misuse of EU funds by any MEP, Labour too of course, we would not bat an eyelid and print the story without hesitation. History has shown that this is what we do. Those who say we have not, have of course not been avid readers of MaltaToday or suffer from selective memories.

Yet time and again, Casa resorts to the official answer when faced with serious indictments. Namely that we are in cahoots with Castille.

As we have stated before and always, serious allegations can only be treated equally seriously. The fact that most politicians of either hue fail or are unwilling to take up political responsibility is not our fault.

It is however surprising that, while Casa wants to host persecuted journalists in Malta, his lawyer this week was busy trying to get me to reveal my sources in court, in a case in which I was not even the defendant! In fact, instead of asking me questions related to the defamation alleged – one by Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi on expenses – I was asked about my sources on other stories concerning Casa. They talk about media freedom, yet try their best at getting journalists to squeal and reveal their confidential sources. Obviously, Casa’s lawyer, Jason Azzopardi MP, felt he should try and turn the court sitting into some media spectacle. He got short shrift.

Life goes on. I would only ask Casa to savour the last weeks of his tenure as MEP, which will be book-ended by inane comments such as his praise for Giulio Andreotti, apparently his inspiration to enter politics. It seems that Andreotti’s association with the Mafia, and his implication in the assassination of journalist Mino Pecorelli, did nothing to dampen Casa’s infatuation with the divine Giulio. Good thing he enjoys talking about democracy and media freedom.

More in Blogs