While the Executive Committee of the PN was meeting last Tuesday, a number of security guards manning the main door of the party headquarters had an altercation with reporters waiting outside.
The incident happened in a public area open and accessible to all pedestrians. The incident did not happen when any officer of the PN was in the area and therefore the security guards were not actually acting to protect any person or any property.
At one point Vincent Borg, known as Ċensu l-Iswed, shouted at a photo-journalist working for the Times of Malta. The journalist concerned is Mark Zammit Cordina. In a film taken by a Labour Party cameraman and circulated on Labour leaning social media pages, Vincent Borg is heard shouting at Mark Zammit Cordina the words “issa mbagħad inkellmek jiena” (I’ll speak to you later). In the context, and in my opinion, it is reasonable to consider that remark as a threat.
Moments later another security guard, Godric Marston, who is also a PN local candidate, approached a journalist reporting for Newsbook. The journalist, Monique Agius, was filming what was happening in a public and open space. The PN security guard told Monique Agius to stop filming and attempted to cover the camera with his hand.
I am informed the journalists reporting on location agreed not to report the incident and indeed it has not featured except on Labour Party media.
I am also informed that upon finding out about the incident, the Managing Editor of the Times media, Herman Grech, formally complained to the PN about what had happened.
I am disturbed principally by the fact that the news organisations whose employees were targeted by this aggression have until now not reported the incident. I appreciate the notion of erring on the side of caution but frankly, I find it worrying that media organisations exercise their primary caution to ensure that political parties do not suffer political harm because of the unruly security guards they employ rather than to ensure that reporters do not feel in danger when at work.
This incident is as far from the Nationalist Party’s history as anything that has happened in the last two years. Journalists were never, ever bullied by people working for the PN. To my knowledge and in my memory, no one working for a news organisation was ever told “imbagħad inkellmek jiena” in a threatening tone. No one working for a news organisation was told to stop filming in a public space and a hand was placed in front of their camera.
If I am wrong and this has happened before, then I am beside myself this was ever deemed acceptable. It just isn’t.
The primary concern of editors now should not be how such an incident could impact Adrian Delia’s fortunes in an upcoming General Council ballot. They should not care at all about that.
The primary concern of editors should be that their staff do not exercise restraint in their work out of fear of retribution from thugs manning the front doors of political party offices.
Even if the Times of Malta and Newsbook are hesitating from saying this, this incident is absolutely unacceptable. And journalists have to start seeing each other’s backs a bit more.
It feels pointless to say the PN needs to get its act together. Like many of you, I remember reading and sharing the horror Daphne Caruana Galizia felt when Adrian Delia first walked into the PN headquarters accompanied by heavies. That pointless thuggery had an inevitable consequence and we’re living through it now. This can and will get worse.
The PN should never have needed thugs manning its doors. It doesn’t need bullies to protect itself from journalists. It shouldn’t need any.
These people’s boredom, frustration, sense of utterly unjustified self-importance, temper, and lack of basic appreciation of things such as what the relationship between a political party and the independent media should be, was immediately recognisable on their first day two summers ago loitering around the main door of the PN headquarters.
The press should not feel that it has to condone this behaviour. Those thugs are there on the express invitation of the people who administer the party. They are the long arm of the exercise of power and if that arm is extended to threaten a journalist or to cover their lens filming goings-on in a public place, the press must never take that lying down.
When a policeman covered the lens of Darrin Zammit Lupi taking a photo of a protest outside Castille I screamed blue murder. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t react the same way when the same happens to Monique Agius’s lens outside PN HQ.
This disaster was not stopped when we could see where it started two years ago. The press must defend itself from the inevitably worse future we face if we let this slide as well.