Legal changes, a kangaroo court and ignoring the truth

'The idea that [Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder] was a political murder has yet to be proved. To postulate that one of the Cabinet members was behind the murder without a shred of evidence is no light matter to be bandied about matter-of-factly.'

I am still trying to understand the problem with asking for teachers to have a refresher course once in a while. Is it such a big deal? The law sort of insinuates that the issuance of a warrant may be linked to this. But it is not even that clear. What was clear is that the government stated, when faced with so much resistance, that it would retract and sit down to discuss the matter.

Nonetheless the MUT said that it would call a strike. A day later it called off the strike. A bloody waste of time if you ask me.

The point is: the government could be accused of being in a hurry and a little bit insensitive, but surely inviting teachers to make sure they revise the Kreb’s Cycle in Biology and teaching methods for Algebra or the use of phonetics might not be an awful idea.

Surely the teaching profession is a rewarding job. I did it for 12 years. Not financially, but the quality of life is great. We got home at 3pm, and had mid-term holidays, Christmas and Easter holidays and of course the summer. That’s some 140 days. Many of my colleagues had time to do other things apart from teaching, some running a side-business or holding private lessons. As many other people in other professions and trades do, of course – good for them.

But teachers should not become a group of workers that fear change, either. We know that children also need more contact hours, better extra-curricular activities at school, and ideally finish more of their school work… at school.

Of course, the threat of strikes always changes a politician’s mood. If there is a time to change the system, it is now, when the party in power enjoys a good sizeable majority. That change has to be carried out in harmonious consultation with the teachers’ union and stakeholders, but the respect has to be mutual.

 

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The Constitutional court on Friday upheld a judgment ruling that the involvement of Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation did breach the family’s fundamental human rights.

The court upheld the order for Valletta to desist from continuing to be part of the investigation but the court refuted the family’s request to revise all decisions taken as part of the investigation.

As we all know, Valletta is married to Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana and also sits on the board of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit. He was responsible together with others in the arrest of three criminals accused of carrying out the assassination of Caruana Galizia. Conveniently no one says this. To a small grouping, these arrests were all part of some plot to put the blame on others.

The court said it was not necessary to revise the acts and decisions already taken in the investigation, as the family had requested.

“They insist that this was a political killing and therefore it is not excluded that the mastermind or masterminds are people coming from the political sphere and even in a high rank in government. As the Deputy Police Commissioner had testified, nobody is excluded, and therefore neither is his wife… and neither is he excluded.”

It said Valletta’s presence in the investigations could lead to “serious doubts in the mind of the citizen” as to whether the investigation was carried out impartially.

The Court observed that these doubts would be worsened if the investigations failed to establish who the mastermind was and would cause reputational damage to Malta as well as undue suffering to the victim’s family. “A negative outcome could generate an element of anger and mistrust in the institutions as well as the Deputy Police Commissioner and his wife,” the court said.

I can understand why the Caruana Galizias went to court. But there are a number of points which I would like to raise. The first one is that the idea that it was a political murder has yet to be proved. To postulate that one of the Cabinet members was behind the murder without a shred of evidence is no light matter to be bandied about matter-of-factly.

Apart from politicians and their family members, Caruana Galizia jabbed criminals – sometimes with no clear journalistic purpose – by taking them and their families to the cleaners.

Sections of the press looked for a convenient motive for her murder, conjuring up the Panama Papers or the sale of passports, or fuel smuggling. Much of this speculation may have led to the Maltese courts now believing that a politician could be behind the murder. And this is weak reasoning, when hundreds of Caruana Galizia’s less deserving targets could be considered potential links to her assassination. Most of these people were ordinary citizens.

Less talked about is the prospect that the three men arrested for the murder belonged to a criminal gang who wanted Caruana Galizia out of the scene, maybe at the behest of criminals smarted by Caruana Galizia’s missives, people beyond the political world who speak the language of money and violence.

The courts are more worried about the kangaroo court created by those who want to accuse and condemn without a fair trial.

 

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Last Sunday, the Sunday Times referred to a data protection case I filed when phone call logs during April 2017 concerning me and Keith Schembri were publicised by Caruana Galizia. The newspaper reported a decision by the appeals tribunal that upheld an appeal by Caruana Galizia against the decision of the Data Protection Commissioner to have the phone numbers removed from her website.

The facts are too complex to recount here but I was abroad at the time – on holiday on a small island. I receive calls from countless individuals and from everyone and at every hour of the day. I am a newspaper owner: countless individuals from all walks of life call me on a daily basis, and among those are people of influence and the political class. Those people included former PN leader Simon Busuttil, even Caruana Galizia herself. I keep all those messages and logs.

I was always assured by my phone and service operator that my logs were secure and private. I can advise everyone that it is not the case. Someone with or close to the major operators was privy to the calls of Keith Schembri. When Caruana Galizia spilt the beans about that call, she insinuated that I was in cahoots with Schembri. Incidentally the day after the phone call took place, MaltaToday carried a front-page editorial calling for the resignation of Schembri and Mizzi. And another story about an Azerbajani oligarch with accounts and links to Pilatus bank.

And that story was pasted on Caruana Galizia’s online site in the early hours of the morning, just after the newspaper was being packed at the printing press owned by the same company as The Times. The story obviously had been leaked to her. Surely not by MaltaToday.

So, as part-owner and managing editor of MaltaToday, I can safely say that my journalists and editors have the freedom to act and are not ordered about what to write. Our editorial policy is not determined by who phones me or who does not. Why would such a front-page scream for the resignation of Keith Schembri on the eve of election, personalised by the executive editor himself?

Caruana Galizia could not really fathom why MaltaToday was being so critical of Labour so she made our story her own. But she did not carry our editorial calling for political responsibility to be shouldered.

During the election campaign MaltaToday attempted to carry a just reportage of the political campaign. We ran allegations on Egrant and against them, but we repeatedly called for the beef to be produced. We had our feet to the ground and that is why when the people spoke, unlike the other media we had no egg on our faces.

Months later we were vindicated for having been prudent and fair and for not being as gullible as Caruana Galizia or shall we say as diabolical as Jonathan Ferris and Maria Efimova… though I think at this point I am being very kind to the likes of Pierre Portelli, Simon Busuttil, Peter Fenech and Caruana Galizia herself. I think more has yet to be said about these people’s actions.

I do know one thing: most of the people who are vocal about this ugly episode only choose to read what they wanted to, and ignore the rest of the news.

By manipulating one phone call, Caruana Galizia and her sycophants painted a picture of collusion and brown-nosing that never was. If other phone calls from a secure source were leaked without context they could have shown me to be sleeping with Busuttil.

But I have a job to do – as a journalist. And yet the tribunal justified that telephone call could be produced and splashed all over the internet. Revealing my sources or my contacts or even conversations was no problem at all. Just as the data on the laptop not retrieved by Judge Anthony Ellul was kept by the family against all criminal procedural ethic, on the premise that the sources were sacred and should not be known to third persons (the investigators).

But not in my case. In my case, the rules were overturned and the chair of the information and data protection appeals tribunal, Anna Mallia, The Times and, of course, the Caruana Galizia family, continued to believe what they wanted to believe.

That’s why I get a kick from writing what people want to hear.

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