On Facebook, the Maltese far right takes aim at the media coverage of the Souleyman murder

Amid the Facebook images of pro-life messages and support for crucifixes, the Maltese far right attacks the media and NGOs for suggesting a racial motivation behind the Hal Far drive-by shooting 

The Maltese patriots react on Facebook (left) to the murder of Lassine Souleymane (right). Inset: Matteo Salvini, a common reference point for the MPM
The Maltese patriots react on Facebook (left) to the murder of Lassine Souleymane (right). Inset: Matteo Salvini, a common reference point for the MPM

The Maltese far-right has turned to Facebook to attack the media for suggesting the murder of 42-year-old Ivorian Lassine Souleymane, on a road outside the Hal Far migrants’ open centre, could be racially motivated. 

From suggestions of revenge attacks to umbrage about under-reported attacks by foreigners on Maltese nationals, the far-right has been active in decrying the media’s “leftist agenda”. 

Souleymane is believed to have been killed by gunshot in a drive-by shooting that left two other men from Ghana wounded. The car is believed to have been a white Toyota Starlet. 

But members and candidates of the Moviment Patriotti Maltin are crying foul at attempts to declare the murder of Lassine Souleymane as a racially motivated assassination. 

MPM leader Henry Battistino set the tone by claiming that ascribing a racial motivation to the mysterious murder, would mean inviting a revenge attack. “Implying a racist motive for the Hal Far shootings is hasty, foolish and moreover dangerous... this could trigger a revenge attack.” 

The reaction of people like Romina Farrugia Randon, who contested the 2017 elections for the MPM, betrays only her concern that the media allegeldy under-reports crimes by foreigners in Malta. 

“When you use an unsolved crime to call all Maltese racists, it means you have touched the bottom,” Farrugia Randon said on her first Facebook post following the murder. 

“Who are you talking about,” asks one of the commenters on the post. “The Maltese media, who else?” Farrugia Randon replies. “They hate us too much but don’t fall for this provocation. Keep strong.” 

Again, it is not concern at the victim of a drive-by shooting that informs these messages. In another message, this time posting a story on the alleged rape of a 23-year old charwoman by an Indian careworker inside a home for the elderly, Farrugia Randon takes exception again at the media coverage of the murder. 

“They haven’t yet found the assassin and it seems they have already made up their mind that there’s a whiff of racism in the killing of a foreigner. Nothing is said about a foreigner’s rape... zero! This man was arrested. We know who he is but there’s no whiff of anything here! Whoever they are, let’s hope murderer is caught because if not, they will pile up the hate on the Maltese so that foreigners retaliate against us...” 

The same sentiment is expressed by MPM member Fatima Maria (Facebook cover photo: a Knight Templar with the George Cross, another symbol long appropriated by white nationalists all over Europe).  “It is easy for the media to say ‘it could be racism’ when it is run by a leftist agenda. Why doesn’t the same media ask the same question when a Libyan injured 10 Maltese in Paceville. Why didn’t they say if that was a racially-motivated attack or terrorism?” 

On their own website, even the far-right Imperium Europa – who this year will field the 73-year-old Norman Lowell for MEP again – take to task PN candidates who retweeted news of the Souleymane murder, namely Roberta Metsola and Michael Briguglio. “Briguglio rushed in to support his theory and Roberta Metsola, who is currently in competition with Briguglio, didn’t want to be left out. The PN can never recover with these kind of people within its folds.” 

Even on a tweet by ICIJ journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia, who echoed fears of a racially-motivated murder, Imperium Europa accuses him of “undermining our government”, when the same Imperium is at odds with the Labour administration’s handling of migration. 

Earlier on Wednesday morning, 23 NGOs urged Malta’s highest authorities to “unequivocally condemn all forms of violence”, warning that Malta would have to face up to what was an act of terror if the Souleymane murder turns out to have been racially motivated. 

The NGOs are coalition of human rights groups, gay rights groups, feminists, and social welfare organisations who were included in a hit-list of 48 NGOs by the anonymous Facebook user Van Drattaxll (or Van Drattax in other profiles). “Know the list of the traitors for when the times comes.” His Facebook profile photo? Italian far-right strongman Matteo Salvini, a key reference point for all Maltese ultranationalists. 

“The Europe of Nations and Freedom group of parties espouses the same values of MPM... these are the people who plot the future of Europe,” Farrugia Randon says of the MEPs’ group led by Salvini and Marine le Pen of France in a post from 12 March with a photo of the ENF leaders. “A Europe as we we citizens of Europe want it.” 

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