Saviour Balzan does not like the fact that his sycophantic chats with Yorgen Fenech from before Fenech’s arrest are making the rounds again. An anonymous X (twitter) account is publishing screen shots. Balzan blames two people in particular, Mark Camilleri (who republished the leaks), and Jason Azzopardi, who Balzan believes is the source that leaked them in the first place.

Significantly for someone who was a journalist for a long time, Balzan gets lost in a debate about the motivations of the (alleged) sources. What really matters is whether the information is correct. Balzan does not deny it. He confirms it.

The part-owner of Malta Today says his association with Fenech was from the time when “everyone” thought he was a great guy.

Even accepting that, here are some things that Saviour Balzan is implicitly confirming.

Firstly, his journalism, such as it is, is a commercial enterprise where people with money have better access to him and therefore to what he writes, than people who don’t. That access is not tested for credibility or fairness. If you pay Saviour Balzan, he’s going to like you, and it will show in his reporting.

The second confirmation is a little bit more complicated and needs some explaining.

A few days ago, journalists asked the editorial staff at Malta Today how they felt about their newspaper joining a club together with political parties supposedly to represent the business interests of the media sector. The editorial staff said it was none of their business because they work independently of the owners of Malta Today.

Several months ago, Saviour Balzan said he quit the editorial side of Malta Today and left decisions on content entirely to the editorial staff, while his continued concern is purely commercial. Which means that though he is in this owners’ club he does not exert influence on the editorial content of Malta Today.

And yet just this week Saviour Balzan sent Jason Azzopardi questions as a Malta Today reporter investigating a story which he proceeded to write about in the newspaper he owns.

The issue here is there are no lines. No rules. Saviour Balzan respects the independence of his editors only in so far as his interests are served by that. The moment they’re not he puts on his trench coat and becomes a reporter.

Now combine those facts. And what you get is a newspaper that is utterly vulnerable to the interests of the people with money who have access to Saviour Balzan.

I am a supporter of Malta Today. It is an important part of the shrinking firmament of published opinion and of well-researched journalism. The guys working there do great work.

But their protestations that they are free of Saviour Balzan’s visceral hatreds, deep-set prejudices, and well-financed biases are contradicted by Saviour Balzan himself, by his behaviour and his writing, his paranoia, and his bursts of projectile vomit.

It is truly paradoxical that he owns a newspaper that is often such a positive contribution to public discourse when we are all dumber and lesser when he clears his throat to speak.

When Daphne was still alive and Yorgen Fenech was not in prison, Saviour Balzan sought to justify his (paid for) biases by deprecating her, pouring hatred in terms so explicit and so vile they remain the best example of the unjust treatment Daphne lived through before the ultimate injustice of her murder.

The methods persist. Being a critic of Saviour Balzan is a hazardous job. He will hit out at you with all manner of howaboutwhenyoudidthis, and when he doesn’t find equivalents he can exaggerate enough to deprive you of the credentials to criticise him, he will invent them and turn them into rhetorical questions to make them feel like slander but legally look like they’re not.

Saviour Balzan is not always wrong. Nobody is. But you can’t trust him either way because he will not be transparent about who might be paying him to say what he is. Unless chats recorded on his client’s phone end up leaked on some X account. Then you know you should never have trusted him. Then you know he’ll be a very angry man.