Abela showdown pushed Cuschieri out of One: ‘Now I have liberty to say what I want’

Former One Radio host’s loyalty to Joseph Muscat irked Labour top brass • Cuschieri says he will be free of intereference in his Facebook livestreams

The Labour Party’s radio darling Emanuel Cuschieri fell out of favour with the party’s top brass, after twice meeting party leader Robert Abela at Labour HQ in Ħamrun over his generous loyalty to predecessor Joseph Muscat in his One Radio shows.

Cuschieri met the prime minister twice at Labour’s Mile End headquarters before his decades-old programme was axed, in which the radio presenter was told off about his frequent defence of Muscat on his radio show.

Cuschieri, a one-time party executive member from the Sant years, has been a Labour radio mainstay with his hour-long polemic propping up Labour policies and politicians, nurturing an audience of loyal Labour voters.

In one meeting with Abela he was told that his constant references to Joseph Muscat were a matter of concern, with Cuschieri’s defence of the embattled, former leader not entirely in line with where Abela’s Labour wants to position itself.

In these meetings Abela was accompanied by Labour deputy leader for party affairs, Daniel Micallef, and party CEO, and Labour MP, Randolph Debattista.

Cuschieri retorted that he had always praised all Labour leaders, “especially Abela”. As an unofficial propagandist, Cuschieri’s daily sermons garnered an elderly Labourite listenership with his typically unforgiving narrative for all-things-Nationalist or Labour detractors.

Towards the beginning of summer, Cuschieri’s long-time programme was put on a hiatus for the summer, after having mounted a defence of Joseph Muscat, who had been tapped to become the president of the Premier League consortium of Maltese football clubs.

He referred to a report by blogger Manuel Delia, claiming Castille had taken an interest in influencing clubs not to support Muscat’s bid – Cuschieri insisted Delia’s claims were a lie, but if proved truthful, it would be himself to reveal Muscat’s detractors inside Castille.

His defence of the erstwhile PM provoked a reaction from a senior party official, who said the radio show would cease broadcasting for the summer. Cuschieri, umbraged, turned to Facebook live to broadcast his polemics, although much of his radio audience failed to migrate to the social media platform.

He then followed Muscat’s tack with a vocal condemnation for the criminal arraignment of former Infrastructure Malta boss Fredrick Azzopardi, invoking supporters to put up a show of support outside the law courts. The weak turnout was a flop for Cuschieri.

But Labour felt the need to disassociate itself from Cuschieri’s overt defence of Azzopardi, saying it had been entirely his personal initiative: “The Labour Party respects the autonomy of the institutions, in the same way that it respects the right of every individual to make his voice heard peacefully – This is a personal initiative of Mr Cuschieri.”

On Friday, Cuschieri once again took to his Facebook page for a two-hour livestream, in which he referred – in couched terms – to the reason why his programme had been conclusively axed from the Labour Party radio station.

“I have now the absolute liberty of mentioning all the people associated with the Labour Party, who deserve praise and worthy defence, who might be unjustly attacked,” Cuschieri said – an unstated reference to Joseph Muscat – “I want to be ‘truth’s friend’... nobody will dictate to me what I cannot say. I’ve never been anybody’s puppet, nobody has ever interfered in what I ever said, and I certainly won’t allow myself to lose that kind of self-respect.”

Cuschieri told his audience that the time would come when he would speak over the reason he had been apparently blacklisted from the Labour Party radio station’s airwaves.

“The important thing is to have the freedom to say what one pleases...  to call out what is wrong, and to state what is indeed right,” Cuschieri told his followers on Friday, explaining that he would be using Facebook Live as his platform.

He acknowledged having been emotionally bruised by the decision.

“I can certainly withstand this drawback... I endured much when I put my personal advancement on the backburner to tend to my father’s needs for nine years.”

Cuschieri also said his One Radio station had been “capriciously denied” the opportunity to keep on broadcasting.

“You have the right to know... you are the Labour Party, genuine people who have always supported the Labour Party.”