Sociologist from Malta

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Daphne, 6 months on - Michael Briguglio

6 months have passed since the brutal murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

She remains alive among those who long for Malta to be a normal liberal democracy, in line with what we voted for in the referendum for EU accession 15 years ago. She remains alive among those who are standing up to be counted for free speech through their activism, journalism and participation in civil society.

In the meantime 45 journalists from top media houses in 15 countries have teamed up to form the #DaphneProject . Their revelations so far have confirmed the facts published by Daphne Caruana Galizia on Panama Papers and give the Police no choice but to investigate allegations related to her brutal murder.

As part of the global partnership to bring about justice for Daphne, Civil Society Network will keep stepping up its activism for good governance. We are also showing that good governance has a strong impact on our everyday lives, whether through utility bills, protection of the environment, quality of life and meritocracy. We are on the side of journalists and activists campaigning for freedom of speech.

As an EU member state Malta is increasingly resembling other rogue states which are deviating from the European spirit of freedom of expression and liberal democracy.

Our Prime Minister Joseph Muscat may present his best smile on international television when he speaks about whistleblowers and rule of law. Yet he refuses to give whistleblower status to Maria Efimova and Jonathan Ferris and he keeps defending his Chief of Staff and Ministers despite the grave cases of corruption and bad governance.

Muscat parades himself as being progressive, liberal and feminist. Yet this seems to be so only when the interests of oligarchs are not effected. His party’s recent parliamentary vote against legislative reforms to protect Maltese journalists and media houses from SLAPP is a case in point. Along the same lines, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici is clearly more willing to protect Henley and Partners and Pilatus Bank than Maltese journalists.

The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia was a stark warning to those of us active against corruption. But other techniques may also be used to silence critics. Labour does this through its policies of seduction, sanctioning and surveillance.

In this regard, academics and artists may depend on government funds for contracts, consultancy, expositions and so forth. There is nothing wrong in this itself, but if such funding conditions condition free speech then we should be asking important questions.

For example, to what extent is partisan loyalty required to win contracts? To what degree do artists and academics sanction themselves? What happens if an academic or artist who depends on government funds speaks up on such matters?

I salute academics and artists who refuse government funding precisely so that their free speech and expression are not affected. Their expressions and opinions on censorship are not dependent on who is in government and what they personally obtain. But this only shows what a sorry state our country is in.

As regards civil society and the media, Labour clearly rewards those which support it directly or indirectly, and largely ignores others unless their pressure is so significant that the government would have to concede some inches. Associations are witnessing the dismemberment of procedures and the appointment of party apparatchiks on decision-making bodies, putting party interests before the common good.

In the meantime, an army of Labour trolls harass people on the social media, sometimes even exposing government critics publicly. The ultimate aim of this strategy is to intimidate them, to show them that they are being watched and tracked.

Government is everywhere. It is the hand that feeds us and slaps us. But in the final instance, power is in our hands, as we may choose not to be seduced by the Muscat regime. We will keep up our activism even if Muscat is watching us and wants us to shut up.

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