TVM investigates Nazi book promotion as John Demanuele issues apology

TVM presenter John Demanuele apologises for promotion of Ronald Bugeja book that glorifies Nazi civil administration and which was promoted in his literary review Ħajjitna Ktieb

TVM presenter John Demanuele has issued an apology for having promoted the work of author Ronald Bugeja
TVM presenter John Demanuele has issued an apology for having promoted the work of author Ronald Bugeja

TVM presenter John Demanuele has apologised to television viewers for having hosted the author of a book glorifying Nazi Germany and its civil administration, in a rare expression of contrition from the public broadcaster.

Demanuele, who presents the literary review Ħajjitna Ktieb, issued an apology to viewers on his behalf and that of his production team, in a news item reported by TVM online.

The national broadcaster said it had received a number of complaints after it was accused of giving indiscriminate room to the author of an uncritical work on Nazi-fascism and the author of the Holocaust, the German dictator Adolf Hitler.

PEN Malta demanded explanations and for immediate action from TVM regarding a programme that promoted and recommended the book “Mein Führer Adolf Hitler, L-Istorja u l-Bijografija”, written by Ronald Bugeja, a prison official and history buff, without any critical assessment of the work.

TVM has since removed the programme from its online platform, after newspapers reported the statement. The PBS registered editor, Charles Dalli, said he had initiated an investigation to establish whether editorial rules had been followed, and how the content of this edition of Ħajjitna Ktieb had not undergone editorial scrutiny, neither by the production team nor by the PBS Quailty Control Department.

The producers were informed that the shortcoming could be tantamount to a breach of contract.

In the programme Ħajjitna Ktieb of 23 March, produced and presented by John Demanuele, TVM promoted Bugeja’s book, without Demanuele posing any critical questions about the dangerous revisionism of this book, which glorifies and justifies Hitler and the actions of the civil and military Nazi administration in Germany in the 20th century. “Among the many despicable policies of violence and discrimination that the book ignores or justifies, the author defends the burning of books written by authors who disagreed with the regime. The author recommends this as a good policy,” PEN Malta said.

“Everyone has a right to their opinion, but the public broadcaster’s duty is to know history, to point out lies and deceit, and to promote values of democracy and tolerance,” said PEN Malta President Immanuel Mifsud. “What we have here is a serious insult to the Maltese public, which funds TVM, and an even greater insult to all the victims of this historic violence and crimes against humanity by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. We demand from TVM and minister Owen Bonnici immediate investigation into how this programme came to be broadcast and to tell us what actions they will take to prevent this from ever happening again.

The National Book Council said it had given no sort of funding of the book, except for providing the publication with an ISBN number. The NBC also said it Bugeja’s book had been excluded from the National Book Prize long-list, published on 4 April, upon legal advice. “The Council took this decision due to the content of the book and the ethics that inform this action, as well as the legal repercussions of being associated with a book that promotes or approves of the Holocaust, as prohibited by Article 82B of the Criminal Code,” the Council said.

In a comment to MaltaToday, the ministry for culture said it was not aware of the programme prior to its broadcast. “The ministry definitely does not condone the declarations made by the author of the book. PBS is an independent corporate body endowed with editorial discretion and the structures of PBS operate independently from the ministry. The ministry is informed that PBS is currently investigating this incident.”

In separate statements, the Nationalist Party, and civil society organisation Repubblika said that it was not acceptable for the national broadcaster to air a programme which promotes a book defending and praising Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.