Sociologist, local councillor, activist from Malta

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not so independent journalism

Michael Briguglio

Malta Today 23rd November 2010
http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/blogs/michael-briguglio/not-so-independent-journalism


Ever since I have been active in politics, I have always had great respect for the press. I consider it to be an essential pillar of democracy, where different voices and perspectives can air their views within the public sphere. I therefore have great respect for journalists, and have always campaigned for their rights, irrespective of their views.

Indeed, I don’t believe that any newspaper or journalistic production is neutral – all have their own biases, agendas and ideological slants. Nothing wrong with this. For example, we all know that British newspapers the Guardian and the Telegraph are progressive and conservative, respectively, and both do a great job in their respective fields.

Hence whilst I simply cannot imagine journalism without any ideological slant, I would expect the press to be fair and to call a spade a spade. I would not expect bias to blind these two characteristics.

In the past weeks I directly experienced instances of journalism which was very disappointing to say the least. Let me just mention three examples of what I mean. In all three cases I hope I am suffering from unjustified paranoia. Maybe I have read too much Kafka and Orwell.

Example One: The Malta Independent’s coverage of the IVA movement on divorce. First the Independent on Sunday incorrectly states that the movement was set up on the initiative of Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando and Evarist Bartolo, and attributes this to a quote from a committee member of the same movement. The truth is that different people concurrently formed the movement after the Prime Minister announced his position on a referendum. This also includes Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party, which immediately said that it will campaign for a ‘yes’ vote.

For argument’s sake, let us say that The Independent’s mistake was genuine. Then check out the report in the newspaper on 16th November which covered the official launch of the movement. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The photoshoot on the front page of the newspaper included 3 members of the group but not the others, including myself, even though I was sitting down practically at the centre of the table. A coincidence? Maybe the ‘Independent’ is not so ‘independent’ after all. What’s in a name anyway!

Example Two: L-Orizzont, another self-proclaimed independent newspaper, has suddenly decided to discontinue my fortnightly column in the newspaper. The editor told me that for the time being my fortnightly column will be suspended and that he’ll contact in the future to start writing again. Maybe the newspaper is considering a new editorial policy, reducing its columnists? Once I see which other columnists have been removed, the picture will be clearer. Maybe after all, the same treatment is being given to Labourite columnists. Or maybe not. Perhaps his master’s voice does not like it when I criticise Labour.

Or perhaps I am expecting too much. Space in l-Orizzont may be precious, and possibly the editor decided that it would be better to allocate more space for views which are in synch with what the newspaper represents.

Example Three: Since the beginning of the current TVM schedule, my good friends Peppi Azzopardi and Lou Bondi (I’m serious, they are my friends) have for some reason or another declined to invite AD on any of their programmes dealing with political issues. I thought they were all for equal opportunities. Maybe ‘Where’s Everybody’ has a new definition of what ‘everybody’ means when they invite guests for programmes on politics. I hope and trust that they will prove me wrong. Peppi, Lou – when you ask ‘Where’s Everybody?’ my answer is, the Green Party is here! Will you exclude us?

What about other not so independent sections of the press – Well, In-Nazzjon, il-Mument and KullHadd are unashamedly partisan. I have no problem with this. They have every right to be so in a democracy. What you see is what you get.

Others do invite AD to their programmes (perhaps too many too mention, but you know who you are!), and we actually have regular columns in some newspapers, namely The Times, MaltaToday, Illum, Zminijietna and Il-Gens Illum. Hats off to you!

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