Two university academics sit on the committee appointed by the government six months after the conclusions of the Daphne Caruana Galizia inquiry to propose “developments” to the media sector in Malta.

Their views are well known, and it is, in my view, perfectly fair to argue that they have been chosen to sit on the committee that is supposed to take forward the findings of the inquiry because they are opposed to the findings of the inquiry.

The appointment of Saviour Balzan may have been intended to ridicule the process or at least to suffocate it in unbearable irony. The appointment of Carmen Sammut and Saviour Formosa is intended to undermine it completely.

Consider an article written by Carmen Sammut included in a 2019 journal published in Tel Aviv.

The whole thing is masked under the guise of academic rigour but it’s all just a better written version of the One TV mantra that Daphne Caruana Galizia was in the business of hurting private people out of cruelty, she was an elitist monster that Friedrich Engels would have recognised, Joseph Muscat is whiter than white and a pathetic victim of “demonization”, and the idea that press freedom in Malta is under stress was a lie concocted by Matthew Caruana Galizia and his looney friends and swallowed wholesale by those idiots at The New York Times, The Guardian, La Repubblica and other rags where they know nothing about journalism and media freedom.

You’d think I’m exaggerating and I’m being unfair. And you’d be wrong. See for yourself. The journal her chapter is in is called Media, freedom of speech, and democracy in the EU and beyond. Look up research paper number 10. It’s about 158 pages long. And Carmen Sammut’s article in it makes for excruciating reading.

She doesn’t use the word “lie”. She says that the idea that Daphne was killed because she was a journalist and that her killing showed just how threatened media freedom is in Malta was a “narrative”. ‘Narrative’ is one of those academic polite words used to substitute real world language. ‘Narrative’ doesn’t mean any old story. ‘Narrative’ is a story which is untrue, a fabrication. So yes, she says the idea that the fact that Daphne was killed exposes the other fact that we need to address issues of media freedom in Malta is, in and of itself, a lie.

Which is both the opposite of the findings of the Daphne inquiry and the best way the government ensures that whatever restrictions exist on media freedom in Malta today, persist, or worse, are consolidated under the veneer of “look, we set up a Committee of Experts!”

Here are some old chestnuts she coughs up in her article:

  • “Daphne’s role is probably best explained by the Elite Theory where a small group of individuals assume entitlement to power not merely because of their material privileges but also because they claim intellectual and moral superiority.”
  • “In the process she hurt a lot of people, including private individuals and some other journalists. There are many poignant accounts of people who suffered because of blogs that were clearly aimed to destroy their moral and their reputation or otherwise to condition their private or public conduct.”
  • “Many of her attacks targeted Labour women, which is rather paradoxical when she was a lone woman.”
  • “Her narratives and methods were deeply embedded in old partisan divides. Whenever ‘moral panics’ were employed, she raised or lowered the morality bar according to her agendas. “
  • “It was largely thanks to Matthew Caruana Galizia’s relentless efforts that the slain journalist is now internationally deemed to be a martyr for press freedom.” Implicitly, the context suggests that Daphne was not deserving of such a recognition.
  • “The solidarity and balance that was needed in this most delicate moment of grief (immediately after Daphne was killed), was soon tipped as soon as a new grand narrative emerged; one that linked her death to corruption and impunity; which resonated with the international media.” There’s that word ‘narrative’ again. Read this for what it means: that the link between Daphne’s death and corruption and impunity is a lie.
  • “The international press relied on a small chorus of sources and invested little effort to understand local nuances.”
  • And in her conclusion, Carmen Sammut identifies who, from her point of view are the real victims of the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia: “While the watchdog role of the media is essential, we have reached dystopic levels to an extent politicians are portrayed as self-serving, malevolent and corrupted by power in most democratic setting.”

Robert Abela has chosen just the person he needs. One who will promote policies to protect politicians from demonization by nasty, mean journalists like Daphne Caruana Galizia was, and to assure everyone that corrupt politicians are not quite as corrupt as those journalists like the Caruana Galizia mother and son duo misled you to believe they are.

There’s a word for this sort of attitude: Carmen Sammut is an apologist.

As is Saviour Formosa, for that matter.

I’ve cited a 2019 article by Saviour Formosa one other time I wrote about him. It was published on The Times of Malta, so it did not have to shield behind a 9-inch bibliography to pass peer review. Instead, it reads like something some provincial official in rural North Korea would rush to have published hours after the death of some Kim is announced. I doubt Saviour Formosa has the self-respect to regret writing that piece of apocalyptic drivel.

He was mourning Joseph Muscat and Joseph Muscat’s decision to quit after the people Carmen Sammut described as “a small group of individuals (who) assume entitlement to power not merely because of their material privileges but also because they claim intellectual and moral superiority” forced him out of power in a serious of protests in the weeks leading up to that article.

Side note. I’m not one to point out that brevity is the soul of wit, but someone coined a phrase which more succinctly describes “a small group of individuals (who) assume entitlement to power not merely because of their material privileges but also because they claim intellectual and moral superiority”. Robert Musumeci calls us ‘holier than thou’.

As Saviour Formosa weeps at the loss of Joseph Muscat, he writes: “Now the executive power has collapsed and needs brave souls to reformat it, not the screamers, not the sudden virgins, not the santo subitos, but wise mentors.”

Was he too vague when he spoke about the screamers? Saviour Formosa disabuses you of any doubt in case he would benefit from it: “Salt was also added to the wound through civil society, which suddenly appeared for a presumedly good reason, but is tempered by political infiltration and members with dubious pasts … Again, this is a situation not helped by a media that is competing with the anarchic social media in dishing out untruths and, at worse, half-truths.”

Yep. That’s the man on the committee to propose improvements to media freedom. He’s the proto-Trumpian accusing the media who exposed Joseph Muscat and shamed him into disgraceful resignation as purveyors of fake news.

Don’t for a minute think this was because Saviour Formosa was in grief at the time, and he may have spoken more emotionally than he might have preferred.

Just a few weeks ago, as Repubblika activists protested peacefully drenched in autumn rain outside police headquarters, Saviour Formosa stepped up to support Angelo Gafà. He did that by publicly admonishing protesters whose “methods” he says are aimed “at tarnishing careers and reputations just for the sake of a few cheap, dirty, political brownie points.”

I’m not sure where protesters can cash their brownie points. I know where Saviour Formosa can cash his. The day before his appointment on this Committee, his wife was appointed to sit on the new “Cannabis Authority” (is that an oxymoron?). That’s Janice Formosa Pace, recently in the news when she resigned from the board of governors of the prison to be appointed on the same day to sit on an inquiry into the governance of the prison.

While you’re holding back tears, here’s another one. Saviour Formosa’s wife was appointed to the same board which the sister of Saviour Balzan – he who was appointed on the same board as Saviour Formosa – will be presiding.

The government knows which Saviours will be saving them from the evil of free speech.