Our role as journalists

This country is being held ransom by both political blocs making it impossible to even entertain any form of intelligent questioning

Cartoon by Mikiel Galea
Cartoon by Mikiel Galea

The role of any journalist is to probe and ask questions and to question them irrespective of any interests held by those seeking power or in power.

And this country is being held ransom by both political blocs making it impossible to even entertain any form of intelligent questioning.  

This newspaper’s editorial policy does not find its roots in prejudice or perception. Irrespective of the accusations, over the 18 years of its existence it has strived to provide its readers with a perspective that is based on solid reporting.

We have erred on some occasions – for this is a newspaper title staffed by humans – but in general we have tried our very best to relay the message backed by facts. But most of the time we have achieved our aims to keep our readers informed. And an informed reader is a prepared citizen.

Yesterday morning as subscribers to the reputable Paris-based Intelligence Online, MaltaToday tagged the story of an alleged Russian spectre in the elections, part of the slew of allegations of Russian meddling in democratic elections. This time, it was linked to the whistleblower saga in the Egrant allegations, although as this newspaper reported, that link was not well-established in the report.

Like all other news agencies we picked up the story and it followed it by asking the Prime Minister for a reaction to the report’s claims that foreign secret service agencies had raised the concern of Russian mischief.

We too find the allegation difficult to believe, but even that in itself is beside the point. The fact that the claim was published, like other allegations, merits a follow-up.

All questions have been asked, whether it was about the Egrant allegation, the allegations of money laundering and Maltese PEPs. Because there is no wrong or right time to ask a question. The question is the journalist’s only weapon.

The reality is that this question stirred a hornet’s nest and understandably there was a discussion and counter-reaction.

The same reasoning applied when MaltaToday together with numerous news agencies under the umbrella of the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) published the Malta Files, a leak that attempts to highlight the tax advantages of the imputation system in Malta which creates a particular attractive regime for tax planning and tax avoidance by the rich and powerful.

The Malta Files project was carried to coincide with the Maltese presidency, which is steering through important tax avoidance directives and starting work on the CCCTB, and in doing so, it attempted to pursue the argument that this tax avoidance system – though incomparable to offshore and secretive regimes – highlighted the disparity between one country and another, and created an unfair balance. It allows the rich and multinationals to not pay tax in the country where they generate their profits.

The reports gained us no friends from the financial services world, no pats on the back from the political parties. It served to illustrate a reality that is reasonably questioned in other European countries as unfair and unjust. 

Million-dollar question

Declarations by ministers Chris Fearne and Evarist Bartolo in one of the PL party rallies that the PL had learnt from its mistakes could and would have been more credible if Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri had resigned a year ago.

If the Prime Minister had acted to call for the resignation of Schembri and Mizzi, these elections would be fought under much more serenity. The million-dollar question is rather simple: will Muscat weather this to win the day? Until now many pundits argue that this is improbable and that the surveys do not tell the whole story. Only time will tell.