Civil society and media houses unite in demonstration against cyber spoofs

Activists and journalists expressed solidarity with each other after a week-long disinformation campaign targeting them

Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday
Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday

Civil society groups and several local media houses joined together for a demonstration against a disinformation campaign used to undermine prosecutions in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case.

The protest comes after a string of spoof websites and email threads were circulated in the media trying to impersonate activists and media houses.

Blogger Manuel Delia, who was first to be impersonated by the cyber criminals, was also first to address the crowd at the protest.

“This week I confessed that I was scared. But this week I also turned a new page,” he said.

Delia explained that while the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia was intended to silence her, the opposite happened, with people continuing her stories and vocal anger against corruption.

“No one does this work because they will become rich off of it. No one, that is, except the few of us that are ready to be bought. Apart from those, no one does this work to love or be loved.”

He said that he appreciates the Prime Minister’s recent condemnation of the cyber spoofs, but added that his words must be followed by actions.

Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday
Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday

“It must be us, the citizens, individuals, associattions, organisations, journalists, writers, artists... we must be the ones to guard our rights.”

Louiselle Vassallo, an activist with pressure group #occupyjustice, stated that Tuesday’s protest is a demonstration of solidarity with those who have been targeted by the disinformation campaign over the past week.

“These attacks certainly cost a lot of money. Corrupt money,” she said.

She demanded that a condemnation of the campaign be made by every member of parliament, including a condemnation from the Broadcasting Authority.

Representing PEN Malta, writer Immanuel Mifsud reminded colleagues and country leaders that freedom of expression is a sacrosanct right, “and you have a duty to protect it”.

“Remember that you were the ones who passed legislation to guarantee this right, and therefore make sure it’s not taken away by someone engaging in this cruel game of hide-and-seek.”

Last to speak was Repubblika’s President Robert Aquilina, who was also targeted by the disinformation campaign.

“We are here because we want our people to be informed. To be well informed and be fully informed,” he said.

Aquilina added that the cyber campaign is unacceptable, and that Malta’s experience with the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia is an example of what these attacks could eventually lead to.

“Our country needs journalists to tell it the truth as a whole, as beautiful as it is and as ugly as it is. Our country needs activists, people not necessarily involved with political parties, who provoke discussion on various issues in the country, including and especially uncomfortable issues of power.”

He continued by saying that campaigns of this kind are an act of violence against journalists and free activists, and pose a greater threat to democracy and the right to information.

“We do not want our country to have more victims like Daphne.”

Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday
Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday