On the evening of Christmas you read on this blog that on Christmas Eve Adrian Delia filed in court an urgent request to see his children after 11 weeks during which he saw one of his children once when she asked to see him.
Over the next two days you read on this blog that in her response Adrian Delia’s wife made allegations which I described as “disturbing” and of sufficient import as to make the Leader of the Opposition’s position untenable.
In my last post on the subject I explained my reasons for not actually going into the details of the allegations but I also said I knew that they were spreading wildly on WhatsApp.
If you follow this blog from Facebook you know that those posts were met by a deluge of harsh criticism and not a small measure of insults.
And if you get your news from any of the other media you would not have learned about what was going on until this morning when Lovin Malta reacted to a post yesterday by former PN MEP candidate Johnathan Shaw.
He was the first to actually openly say the allegations confronting Adrian Delia were of domestic and child violence.
The response to Jonathan Shaw’s post was as numerous as it was vicious. It was also coordinated.
Consider these two posts by way of example. Within seconds the PN’s hired hands were posting a coordinated response dismissing the allegations made by Nickie Vella de Fremeaux as “false”.
They said they were relying on reliable sources. Quite how reliable anyone could be about what was happening inside someone’s home I cannot fathom. Because in reality only the inhabitants of that home can know how true Nickie Vella de Fremeaux’s allegations were.
After Lovin Malta became the only medium to report the nature of the allegations this morning, Occupy Justice published a statement saying these merited the Leader of the Opposition’s resignation.
From then the mainstream news media, silent since my first blog post on Christmas, started reporting what had happened.
I wanted to take you through the last few days before I move to the topic of this post: how this was reported today.
If you relied on MaltaToday or The Malta Independent for your news and your information, the first you would have heard about this story is effectively the denial of Nickie Vella de Fremeaux’s allegations. I’m not some genius, experienced master journalist. If I knew what Nickie Vella de Fremeaux had alleged on Christmas Day, all the other news media knew as well. They did not report even the fact she had made the allegations.
But today they reported the court turned her down.
Now here’s the real point: the court did nothing of the sort.
I hate using the phrase, but this is nothing short of fake news. And I’ll show you how.
The Court’s decision was as follows (my translation): “The Court, having heard the parties and their attorneys, orders access for the father (three times a week). This access is to be provided at house of the wife’s parents. The Court declares this to be the access in case the parties do not agree on a broader access to the children at a time convenient to all of them”.
“Three times a week” is my summary as I do not think it is appropriate to name here the specific times and hours ordered by the Court. The Court gave Nickie Vella de Fremeaux effective discretion on when and how much to trust her children alone with their father. That’s the simple truth. Everything else you’ve read is a lie.
Furthermore it is absolutely not true that Nickie Vella de Fremeaux asked to court “for Delia not to see his children”. Far from it. Indeed the suggestion for the supervision of her parents was proposed in her response.
Does it matter? Do we need to know? Should this not be private?
It should not matter. We should not need to know. This is private.
This is why all day I tore my insides reading what was being reported angry at the disservice being done to the public.
Now bear with me because you need to look beneath the surface here and see what’s going on and see why it’s a problem. And I’m not taking you inside Adrian Delia’s marriage because I’ve never been, I have my own family to take care of and frankly it’s none of anybody’s business.
I’m taking you inside what happened with the media today. Adrian Delia’s team got on phones today and briefed MaltaToday and The Malta Independent putting their interpretation — deceitful and absolutely wrong — on what was supposed to have occurred.
These media could not possibly have had the Court’s decision in their hands to have reported the way they did. Instead they had the ‘information’ fed to them which gave them comfort with a narrative that seemed to make sense to them.
It’s unlikely these ‘sources’ spinning this story would have shared a copy of the Court decree with these journalists. They would have seen the Court’s order for Adrian Delia to pay his wife a maintenance of €2750 a month, apart from paying on his own his five children’s private school fees and medical and dental costs. A journalist who would not be half asleep would be justified in asking how this court order can be obeyed if it amounts to more than Adrian Delia actually earns from the job he is so precariously holding on to.
These newspapers nailed their colours to Adrian Delia’s mast. They took sides even as they took pains to justify their long silence, repeating the spin that this was a private matter.
And there they presented a lie which will presumably be splashed all over tomorrow’s newspapers.
Consider how Adrian Delia finished the day and how he was reported on the official PN media.
He says he will stick to the agreement reached in Court not to make public comments about the separations to protect his children. And yet, in the same sentence he refers to “malicious allegations circulating on social media”.
Of course he knows that he’s breaking his own commitment in that sentence. The “malicious allegations circulating on social media” are scans of his wife’s submission to the court. He goes out in public to describe them as “malicious”. He breaks the agreement made in court and publicly denounces his wife’s allegations as malicious.
Unlike his wife, he has a TV station from which to lead the charge. He has party officials who got on the phone with the editors of the newspapers to give his spin on events. He has his army of trolls who are apoplectic all over Facebook acting like a zombie apocalypse. He has Robert Musumeci in his new found role of
But you know what? They’re not really his, are they?
For this is the key to what is wrong with all this. I’ve been through a divorce but that doesn’t make me an expert. I know two things though that everyone should know.
First, no court will decide on the reliability of the testimony of a party to a separation suit alleging the other party hits her and her children between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. It is incredible to me that any journalist — and many today have — would buy from a phone-call from a PN official even the idea that such a severe allegation would be decided upon in a matter of 30 hours with a big turkey lunch in the middle.
Second, separations and matters of custody are not decided upon the basis of guilt but purely on the basis of the interests of children.
It will take weeks and months before that interest is established and no one outside the courtroom is qualified to even have an opinion on the matter. Quite apart of whether Nickie Vella de Fremeaux’s allegations prove to be credible to the judge or not, the insane chatter on whether she is or isn’t lying is just that: insane. Except of course that it serves Adrian Delia’s naked political interest to survive in his job.
In the meantime Adrian Delia is using the assets given to him by the party he leads to manage his defence in what he insists is a private matter. He is making statements to his TV. He is getting his staff to make calls. He is issuing instructions to his keyboard warriors.
That, you see, is what the PN is concerned with. That is what our Opposition is focused on: Adrian Delia’s separation and how to dispel the idea that he beat his wife and his children.
You know how trolls repeatedly tell me that we should all get behind the Kap in order to fight Labour. That’s not what they’re doing though, is it? Those working for the Kap today were not briefing newspaper editors about Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri and Chris Cardona and Joseph Muscat.
They were briefing them on a softer enemy: Nickie Vella de Fremeaux.
And their job was not that hard.
Nickie Vella de Fremeaux is not a political party. She does not have the means, the knowledge or the inclination to counter-brief editors as Labour would if it felt its reputation under attack.
Instead editors (and social media readers) get the not so subtle nudging and winking that ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. That “she’s not all there”. That everyone lies in a separation suit.
I don’t know if she’s lying. I don’t know if she’s exaggerating. I refuse to consider all the videos and the recordings going round on social media because I’m not qualified to interpret them and frankly because it’s not really my business.
But I thought we learnt a few things these last few years. That women in general have suffered enough begging to be believed when they say they have suffered at the hands of the men in their lives, even men they have loved and men who had loved them. I thought we learnt that a mental health condition — which I have no qualification to assess, as much as no one else outside the psychiatric profession has for that matter — does not justify a blanket assumption that the person is incapable of knowing the truth or of saying it.
I thought we learnt that police investigate domestic violence even without the need of a report. Which means that the fact that Nickie Vella de Fremeaux has not reported before now what she alleged in her response does not in and of itself prove it never happened.
I thought we learnt that things are never black and white and the fact that Adrian Delia was at the cinema with two of his children yesterday — as Newsbook reported presumably tipped by Adrian Delia’s staff —does not mean all is well. It means Adrian Delia’s wife has given her consent on the basis of discretion the court granted her alone and that she cannot measure how she manages her children on the basis of how the rest of us from outside will interpret her decisions.
She has children to raise, not a political party to run. It does not and should not matter to her why we might wonder why she let them go to the cinema with their father whom a few days before she accused of having beaten them.
This is why the Court trusted her and her alone to decide when her children’s father is to be alone with them. Because a mother must make her own judgement on the basis of what her children need and what she thinks is their best interest not on the basis of how that decision might look on the news.
And yet someone was briefing Newsbook about this cinema outing — the most private, family thing imaginable — and presenting it as a political move.
I will not take sides in a separation dispute because it’s not my business. But I will scream with anger when I see other media taking sides with the powerful, articulated man because it’s easier to do so than to believe the woman.
We expect our police no longer to do that. We expect our courts no longer to do that. We campaign to ensure that women are not treated with a presumption of guilt. And yet we’re doing it ourselves.
I will not feign shock seeing that women’s rights organisations have nothing to say about an Opposition Leader who uses his political party to respond to accusations of domestic violence filed by his wife. Or seeing women MPs say nothing at all in spite of all the habitual waxing melodramatic about domestic violence.
Or seeing Helena Dalli — Minister for women and all that — saying nothing about the leader of the opposing party having to respond to these accusations. Incidentally I wonder if the police will indeed act — as they are expected to do at law — and investigate these allegations now known publicly, independently of the ongoing civil process.
Helena Dalli’s motivations may be deviously partisan. Labour need Adrian Delia to stay in Dar Ċentrali consuming the PN’s resources to fight his demons rather than them.
But all those women’s rights campaigners are not motivated by that. They do not realise that in spite of all we say, faced by a powerful man and a woman, we’ll always assume the man to be right and the woman to be ‘hysterical’ and ‘not quite there’. That not only for Robert Musumeci, or for the trolls getting instructions from PN Central, but for just about everyone, bros always come before hoes.
OK. If that’s how you want it, that’s fine.
In the meantime, the rest of the Nationalist Party, and citizens of whatever political creed who want an Opposition focused on its job of keeping its government in check rather than someone’s soon to be ex wife, can watch the Nationalist Party go further down the vortex of oblivion.