Why is it that whenever there is something odd in the Malta news, very quickly you’ll be finding some association with the links Joseph Muscat built with the Azerbaijan dictatorship?
A Joe Mifsud (not the Magistrate and not your next door neighbour who is likely as not to have what must be the second most proverbially Maltese name possible) is making worldwide headlines because he appears to have brokered links between the Trump electoral campaign and the Russian government.
The world press has been trying to figure him out and it has not been easy.
The Guardian went to look for him at a London address for the academic institution (The London Academy of Diplomacy) he is supposed to represent and they told of an oddly familiar experience of having a chat with a receptionist at a smart London office completely perplexed about being asked for absentee tenants.
In this respect at least The Guardian had as much luck finding the London Academy of Diplomacy as Daphne Caruana Galizia had had when she went to look for Pilatus Bank in the same town. They both drew blanks.
Joe Mifsud appears to exist in his past. The worldwide press is trying to understand who he is by the image he has projected over time in various appearances on the internet.
The interview, conducted 8 months into Joseph Muscat’s first government, is a glowing endorsement of the great, beloved and benevolent leadership of Azerbaijan. Quite why this Joe Mifsud could be considered an authority on the subject remains to be established. But given how rare his views would be in mainstream opinion, one expects the Azeris would have to make do with what they find.
Joe Mifsud speaks about his “impressions of Azerbaijan … were of the great changes that the President and the Government of Azerbaijan has made on behalf of the common people. The architecture, the social fabric and the atmosphere in this country are second to none. The energy that it has can definitely take it further. It also has a fantastic role as a bridge between the Caucasus and Europe, secondary to none.”
In place of Joe Mifsud at that interview, Human Rights Watch would have said that Azerbaijan’s government continues to wage a vicious crackdown on critics and dissenting voices. The space for independent activism, critical journalism, and opposition political activity has been virtually extinguished by the arrests and convictions of many activists, human rights defenders, and journalists, as well as by laws and regulations restricting the activities of independent groups and their ability to secure funding.
When you have shifty people who vanish in and out of the picture behind brass plates mouthing manifest and self-evident untruths in praise of evil dictators, you have to worry.
You have to wonder when you see Joe Mifsud in this NET TV video carried yesterday by Lovin Malta cavorting with Joseph Muscat a few weeks before the Labour party stepped into government. You have to wonder when more hints emerge of Baku-Labour connections from even before Labour came to government.
You have to wonder just how much we are yet to find out and if that might actually be coming from such an unlikely place as a US investigation into the Trump campaign.