Last week today I said Keith Schembri received two payments amounting to over $400,000, five weeks after he got back from a politicians-only trip to Baku in December 2014. Challenged in Parliament to react by Adrian Delia, Joseph Muscat stood up to say Keith Schembri denied this. He didn’t say when. He didn’t say how.

Keith Schembri remained silent.

I then published details of the transactions of the money he received. He remained silent.

Then a discussion followed on the comments boards here, on Facebook, and on the websites that picked the story up: where’s the proof?

Let me get one thing out of the way. Yes, I do have documentary evidence to back up my claims. I did not conjure this from thin air. Nor did I rely on a conversation with a source. Or two. This piece of news is backed up by documentary evidence, in my possession, and as yet unpublished.

I would like to get a number of things clear.

The role of a journalist is to publish information that is true about holders of public office. It is not the role of a journalist to make a case that brings about anyone’s conviction. There are other people in a polity that are paid to do that job and that are given the power they need to come by this evidence and use it.

The trade has safeguards to ensure the journalist are confident in the truth that they publish. So if someone shows up and tells me Keith Schembri did this or that, I would need to go about verifying independently that information.

What self-check must a journalist make? Is it whether the evidence in their hand would lead to conviction? No. That’s the prosecutor’s job. It is whether the information is true. What would help as well is to ask oneself, do I have enough in order to substantially prove my claim is true if I’m sued for libel?

Have you noticed? Keith Schembri has not denied the information I published. Nor has he sued me for libel.

Have you noticed that unlike Joseph Muscat, he had the means to check my claims were sound and when he did, he assumed I have evidence that shows what he knows?

Instead of discussing the wisdom or lack of it of the publication of the evidence, perhaps another discussion should be had instead.

Do you think that in the last 7 days since this information was published any anti-money laundering or law enforcement agency called me to provide them with the information I have, to see if they should investigate further?

You have guessed it. They have not.

Now aren’t those the people who should wonder if I have evidence that can help them do their job? If they wanted to do their job.

Because you see if investigators and prosecutors do not want to do their job, a journalist cannot do it for them. Whether the evidence is published here or not, only they can do something about it. And as we have learnt from bitter experience this last 5 years, they won’t.

Because you see asking me to publish evidence that backs up my claims makes me the subject of the story. I am not the story. I wrote the story. The subject of the story is Keith Schembri. Unlike me he is an official of the state. Unlike me he is obliged to give account of himself. Unlike me it is incumbent on him to show that my claims about his financial affairs are hogwash.

His finances should be transparent. His income should be declared. His taxes should be paid. His companies should be known to the tax authorities. His receipts should be justified. The payments he accepts should be for services he provides.

Why are the people that are asking me to prove my claims not asking Keith Schembri to prove he is squeaky clean?

Because, and here’s the irony, no one expects Keith Schembri to be honest, clean and untarnished by corruption and money laundering. His crimes are taken as a matter of course. They are, as the prime minister once described them, par for the course for a ‘successful businessman’.

A successful businessman is expected to dodge taxes and set up secret off-shore companies, fix loans to mystery third parties with cash that apparently does not exist on the way out but materialises on the way in, and grossly under-declare profits if not declare losses.

So when people appear to be so certain this is happening, isn’t asking journalists to back up just the claims they expect pure harassment intended to silence the reporting when libel is not a likely option beyond the harassment value?