The first thing Robert Abela said when he entered office was that he was going to be humble. Robert Abela’s first reform when in the office is a total attack on the press. The Party of European Socialists is offering its written approval to Robert Abela’s supposedly big reforms (what did I miss?), but in the European Parliament, it still votes in favor of resolutions on Malta which only Alfred Sant, Josianne Cutajar and Cyrus Enger vote against. Bizarre to the untrained eye, but for us who know our government well it’s a typical day for Robert Abela where the truth is merely an inconvenience and politics is all about creating self-serving fictional stories.
No journalist in Malta believes the government is working in their interest and when they finally could express their disapproval of Robert Abela’s totalitarian press reform, he withdrew it. Now, Robert Abela wants to do the same fraudulent process once again, using a fictitious committee with no legal basis, to divide the press and to buffer himself from holding proper and meaningful discussions with the press. The committee and the press are being forced to discuss and amend a proposed government bill which is in its nature totalitarian. The whole process is intended for Robert Abela to have his way, and so far, for him, it is not doing so badly.
The press can easily make this committee irrelevant if it comes up with a unified position and its own proposed bill. So far, our press hasn’t been militant enough to think in union terms and Robert Abela is exploiting this weakness by appointing his own consultation committee which he can ignore and to whom he can set the agenda. Hopefully, this will change and the press will call Robert’s buff and present him with a bill of its own.
Meanwhile, Robert is using his most progressive members in the Party to defend his most authoritarian reforms and this is why he has sent Naomi Cachia to the Council of Europe as the government’s representative. The government, of course, anticipated that it will keep being checked and criticised over Malta’s rule-of-law in the Council of Europe so Robert keeps up appearances by sending his progressive members to defend his shit while they simultaneously compromise their careers and integrity in the process. Robert has a very vile, and toxic way in how he deals with his Party’s critics and this is why I could have never been able to survive at the Party. First, he demoralizes you, and when you submit to him uncritically, he appoints you to do his dirty work. He considers people around him as mere expendable pawns for his selfish ambitions and conspiracies. Stalin treated his friends in a similar way until he eventually killed them when they no longer served his purpose: just like he did with Bukharin.
I feel sorry for Naomi Cachia for being put in this embarrassing position of having to defend a totalitarian law that she had nothing to do with. I have many friends in the Party who still don’t understand the extent of the authoritarian nature of their leader, although many are leaving too. And it’s not just the ones whom you read in the press that are leaving – there are others whose anger and patience are more silent in nature.
Meanwhile, on SLAPP, Naomi Cachia should note that what the government is proposing is an outdated idea that has already been surpassed by the EU Commission’s proposals. The government’s proposed press reform will not hold water legally and will eventually have to be changed as the Commission rolls out new rules. The rest of it will either be challenged in constitutional courts or eventually abrogated altogether when a new government enters office.
Robert Abela’s Labour government will be remembered for launching an attack against free speech and the press and the first thing a new government should do, even to symbolically mark a distinction from the past is to abrogate Robert Abela’s press reforms.
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