Updated at 09:02 with the story behind the “wanting to send me for 6 years in prison”. Scroll to the bottom for an update.
There’s this article on Lovin Malta reporting on a statement given by one Jeremy Camilleri at a Labour Party event. He is introduced as “a well-known political commentator” and quoted saying the following:
“In 2001, when I was a journalist, and I took part in a show that criticised the government – I don’t mention it a lot – at that time the Nationalist government wanted to send me to prison for six years… six years in jail they wanted to give me, that’s how little you could criticise. When I criticised the government, within one year they gave my brother four transfers in his job.”
His experience sounds shocking. But is it true?
My memory isn’t what it used to be, so I asked people who were in the trade in 2001 (as I was, working on the other side of the fence in the government). No one I spoke to could remember a Jeremy Camilleri working as a journalist. I’m not suggesting he’s lying. I’m saying I don’t know anyone who remembers his claims to be truthful. Perhaps he can throw further light on this.
Because then he needs to throw more light on his claim that “the Nationalist government wanted to send me to prison for six years”. How is a government’s “want” determined? How does he know this? What did the government do to demonstrate a desire to send him to prison for six years? Is he talking about a filing for criminal libel? If yes, what was it about? What was the outcome of that process?
Where did he complain about it? Did the courts fail to protect his freedom of expression? Was that fact determined by the European Court of Human Rights?
No, wait. If such an egregious claim is made, the least we should do is question it.
That’s especially because Jeremy Camilleri was using his testimony as a “former journalist” and a “well-known political commentator” to explain how free he feels to criticise the Labour government and how oppressive life under the Nationalists has been.
This is not a stuffy historical debate about how life was in 2001. This is an argument brought forward by a “former journalist” (and once a journalist, always a journalist) that there now exists an environment that enables criticism of the government. This is not about Jeremy Camilleri’s bullshit. This is about Jeremy Camilleri calling our bullshit for arguing press freedom in Malta is in jeopardy in the very present.
The government wants to undermine the logical inference from the fact that a journalist was killed by car bomb under its watch. They want to undermine the conclusions of an independent public inquiry that found them responsible for what happened to Daphne Caruana Galizia.
So, Jeremy Camilleri (who?) shows up to say that the Nationalists oppress journalists and “(want to) send them for 6 years in prison”.
I see only one oppression. Jeremy Camilleri prides himself of having criticised Labour during this term. He was particularly scathing towards Joseph Muscat at the end of the evil premiership of the former Labour leader. No one deserves medals for saying the bleeding obvious, that Joseph Muscat was corrupt, covered up murder, and needed to resign. Jeremy Camilleri expects to get some. It was just as bleeding obvious of him to criticise the Marsascala marina which in any case everyone disagrees with now so let’s not imagine his dissent caused him to risk deportation to Siberia.
As a self-proclaimed independent thinker Jeremy Camilleri took the stand at a Labour election rally to endorse the Labour Party, encourage people to vote for it, and contrast it with what he says is the tyrannical threat of the Nationalists. That’s where I see fear. Why did Jeremy Camilleri feel the need to publicly endorse Labour having been so critical of them over the last several years?
He looked like a Trotskyite confessing to a kangaroo court, praising Stalin just before being shot.
What did Jeremy Camilleri think he risked losing if he did not discard his intellectual autonomy so publicly? What was he afraid of? Was he faced with consequences for his half-hearted distancing from Labour orthodoxy? Was he risking deportation to Siberia?
Updated at 09:02
Someone who remembers the incident Jeremy Camilleri was speaking about yesterday got in touch with me to explain. It was a TV show on TVM that Jeremy Camilleri was a producer on. The show wanted to test security levels in secure facilities the authorities were responsible to keep safe. Camilleri and his colleagues left empty boxes presumably to look like hoax bombs to prove the safety levels weren’t quite as safe as they ought to have been. Jeremy Camilleri indeed faced prosecution for the stunt until the case against him fell apart.
It can’t have been a pleasant experience for him and his colleagues.
Knowing that, of course, you can make your own judgement. As you do that think about the last time you have seen journalists working on a journalistic investigation on the national TV station that would, could, let alone did cause embarrassment to the government of the day.