Strengthening journalism unites the PM, Opposition in separate interviews

Both Bernard Grech and Robert Abela spoke on the rights of the press in separate Sunday interviews, even if tactics differed

Opposition leader Bernard Grech (right) and Prime Minister Robert Abela (left)
Opposition leader Bernard Grech (right) and Prime Minister Robert Abela (left)

Both the Prime Minister and Opposition have insisted on strengthening the press in separate interviews on Sunday, with each party leader offering their takes on the topic.

Speaking on his party’s radio station Net FM, Grech said that journalists should be able to break news stories how and when they want.

"We want to see journalism given the respect and dignity deserved because it’s an essential party of modern democracy," he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Robert Abela spoke on his party's own station ONE and said that strengthening local journalism will be his government's next steps following the publication of the inquiry report into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

"We provided financial assistance to the media industry during the pandemic, but now's the time to look beyond that and, as a responsible, legislator, take advice from those who know the industry well," he said.

Abela said that future reforms will be based on two pillars, namely further changes to the State's functioning, and the future of journalism in Malta. He considered journalism as a key pillar of democracy, and praised his government's financial support scheme offered to media houses during the pandemic.

However, Grech warned that government should not use public money, in the form of financial support, as a means to control and influence the media.

Grech also lashed out at bias in the Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) and made reference to TV presenter Mark Laurence Zammit's resignation from the discussion show Erbgħa Fost il-Ġimgħa due excess PBS interference.

“The people have a right to the whole truth,” he said. “The people have a right to hear the sound bells from every side of politics, […] of civil society, […]  from all sides.”

Meanwhile, Abela criticised Opposition leader Bernard Grech for being too negative after the publication of the inquiry report. 

Abela said he was irritated that the Nationalist Party did not acknowledge the reforms carried out under his administration, and that the Oppositions attitude "will ultimately be judged by the people".

"I will not be playing political games," he said.

During a parliamentary debate on Friday, Grech urged Abela to renounce the former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, while accusing the current Prime Minister of being Muscat's puppet.

Grech urged similarly during his interview, arguing that Abela has a primary obligation to defend Malta and send a clear message to Malta and beyond. 

"He [Abela] needs to show that he's different from Muscat, that he isn't controlled by Muscat, and show that his government is free from Joseph Muscat's tentacles. Our country needs to change, and so he needs to rid himself of Muscat's shadow."