Newsbook reported yesterday that the General Workers’ Union has suspended the editor of its newspapers l-orizzont and it-Torċa apparently because of some disagreement over pieces critical of the Labour Party. Details are still coming out and the editor himself, Victor Vella, hasn’t said anything yet but a closer look at what happened paints a very worrying picture.

L-orizzont and it-Torċa are hardly propaganda vehicles for the PN. They are hardly neutral even. Their support for the Labour Party and the government is unambiguous. Some of the long features they carry every Sunday, sometimes several more times a week, pasting pictures from Owen Bonnici’s and Julia Farrugia’s family albums would not be out of place in the official paper of the North Korean Communist Party. If you were an alien and your only understanding of human affairs was gleaned from it-Torċa you’d think Owen Bonnici was a space pioneer, nay a messiah.

I also strongly disagreed with his newspaper’s decision to publish an old photo of Pia Zammit to make her look like a Nazi instead of a justice campaigner. That was way out of line. But, if the reports emerging from the General Workers’ Union are correct, the suspension of Victor Vella has nothing to do with that rotten decision.

As you can guess, I’m no fan of l-orizzont or it-Torċa.

But I had found Victor Vella’s insight into issues like poverty and racial discrimination, racist prejudice, and the bloody consequences of a populist migration policy passionate, sincere, competent, fearless, and intellectually honest.

I wrote as much a year ago when l-orizzont published a leader on forced repatriation of migrants. In April 2020, the weekend the Maltese government and army abandoned migrants at sea to starvation and drowning it-Torċa questioned our basic humanity.

It appears from unconfirmed reports from within the General Workers’ Union, that the Union’s leadership is of the view that its newspapers should stop highlighting issues of poverty, social exclusion, precarious employment, popular or institutional racism, and other hard-core, left, human issues you’d just expect a newspaper owned by a trade union to give prominence to.

This country has had 80 years of disappointment with the General Workers’ Union. It has long been a clichéthat the Union is far more concerned with the interests of the Labour Party than the interests of its members, let alone the downtrodden and the excluded from our society. It’s hardly useful to repeat the obvious that the false sense of security created by the existence of the Union makes it harder for the needs of the voiceless to be heard because the Union stays silent when it is meant to speak for them.

The ongoing incident with Victor Vella is a new low. If the facts as we understand them are right, it seems that the General Workers’ Union (and its real owner the Labour Party) cannot tolerate any departure from the rosy delusion of Nirvana Under Labour that the government’s propaganda vehicles push.

The Pravda cannot be allowed to dent the illusion that we live in paradise by highlighting the existence of poverty, a growing reality in a society where social divisions are getting wider instead of narrower. And, perhaps more importantly for the government, any newspaper that raises the concern of racism and racial discrimination is acknowledging a reality the authorities wish to deny: that there are racial minorities living in Malta that no policy of social exclusion, no effort to let them drown at sea or push them to Libya, no institutionalised indifference or worse can altogether cancel.

Newsbook report that Victor Vella will be facing disciplinary hearings. Of course, there’s a possibility that we don’t know everything about this case. But if it is true that the General Workers’ Union is putting on trial the consistently expressed view that social justice must leave no one behind, especially not the poor or people disadvantaged merely for having been borne elsewhere, then truly the so-called Labour movement in this country has gone full-scale fascist.