5 questions we should all be asking after the MaltaToday story about Martin Galea

I am not one for conspiracy theories but the story about what happened to Martin Galea, and how this has been handled, is a very worrying one. 

image by -independent.com.mt

image by – www.independent.com.mt

One thing is for sure. The Government is surely doing a really poor job when it comes to public relations. ‘Competent’ and ‘professional’ are not words that comes to mind when reviewing all the details about how Galea’s ordeal was handled and the latest information revealed by MaltaToday, an article that reads more like a short story rather than a news report, have just made matters ten times worse as their recent news items raises even more questions. You can read it by clicking here.

Question 1

“According to Khaled – who learned about Galea’s disappearance from the Ambassador – Galea was taken away from his chauffeur-driven car for his own safety. It was not an abduction, Khaled insisted.” 

So how come there is a very conflicting story on The Times where it says that Galea was kept in a cell most of the time? Added to this are the various reports of a ransom request to Galea’s employer and possible payment and denials by the Prime Minister that the Maltese Government had received any such request.

Question 2

If you watch the video by the Independent, after Galea gets off the plane the first thing he does is thank Marisa Farrugia for saving his life. Are we saying that the only person who was involved in this whole thing, who was actually there, had no idea about what was going on? Let’s not forget that Galea is also an ex AFM captain.

Question 3

Whilst on the topic of Marisa Farrugia, the person Martin Galea has attributed his freedom and safety to, why did the government feel the need to send an experienced diplomat to Libya to assist the ambassador (who had by the way hurriedly returned to Libya after fleeing a few days before this happened), given that she was on suspension and under police investigation? Weirdly enough the story only popped up on MaltaToday too but none of the other newspapers. 

Question 4

“Asked what was the role of Maltese Consul Marisa Farrugia in the whole operation, Khaled repeated several times that Galea returned home thanks to the Ambassador and the Zintanis”

Why was the Ambassador nowhere to be seen in the entourage when Galea returned back home safely? Why didn’t the Prime Minister thank him personally when listing all the people who helped in this expedition? Why is Khaled trying to undermine the importance of Marisa Farrugia’s role?

Question 5

Why on earth was this story given to MaltaToday by Khaled M. Ibrahim Ben Nasan – who according to MaltaToday is a representative of a sub-committee for the fight against corruption and smuggling in Libya – but not by the Government of Malta if this is true. Since the Maltese Ambassador to Libya is peppered all over the article then there must be some kind of official version surely. 

Another thing that is worrying is the attitude of certain people online saying that the Government did the right thing by keeping everything under wraps. This is a dangerous stance to take. Malta is a democratic country and we have every right to know details about international relations. Keeping the public, and more importantly, the family informed with general information on the situation and progress would have not increased the danger to Mr Galea’s life. This kind of situation is thankfully very rare in Malta but other countries have dealt with similar cases and kept everyone informed. In a democratic country, such news should have never been broken by a newspaper, even though kudos should be given to The Times of Malta for breaking such a story. 

Vodafone reveals shocking mass tapping by Government of Malta

I read with incredulity an article on The Guardian which said that Malta is one of the most spied on countries in Europe according to recent data made public by Vodafone.

If you were worried about what the word privacy meant as a consequence of Snowden’s leak then this will have you ditch your mobile phone line and start using otter applications on your smart phone which let you make calls over VoiP.

What is most worrying is that Malta is one of the states (together with Albania, Egypt, Hungary, India, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Turkey) who said that it would be unlawful to disclose any kind of information regarding the content which was intercepted or wiretapped over the mobile network.

According to data by the Malta Communications Authority, by the beginning of 2013, Vodafone had a market share of 50.38%. During the same year the total number of mobile subscribers stood at 539,452, meaning that Vodafone’s subscriber base is around 271,776.

Of these 3,773 were wiretapped or intercepted in 2013, or to put it in simpler terms 1.4% – which leads itself to the question – do we have so many criminals in Malta or is there something else going on?

Vodafone malta spying

Per percentage of the population Malta was only surpassed by Italy in the these numbers, however, since the Mafia in Italy need a lot of policing this is understandable. But whereas all this information is disclosed by the Italian Government in Parliament, in Malta, the Government said it was unlawful to disclose information of how and what kind of content was intercepted.

This data is only available for half of the population of Malta and we still have no idea what kind of information Go and Melita provide to the government. The way this information is being provided to the Government is cause for concern but what is most worrying is the lack of transparency of how this is being done.

The Government has a lot to answer for one question is pertinent – Why is at least 1.4% of half the population of Malta being spied on?

The unacceptable face of racism

Norman Lowell - Imperium EuropaNorman Lowell has been seen at the forefront of a far right movement in Malta for years now. Him and his party are the Maltese equivalent of another swivel-eyed loon in the UK – Nigel Farage and the Ukip party. But while Farage has been dubbed the acceptable face of racism (as if something as horrible as racism can ever have an acceptable face), listening to Norman Lowell speak will unearth everything that is wrong about racism.

With the MEP elections coming up, Imperium Europa have stepped up their PR to try to get more votes. How do they do this? By scaring people and presenting their opinions as facts. Their YouTube channel has a running theme of “Informa ruħek” (inform yourself) and presents nothing but scaremongering.

Just in case you really want to inform yourself about migration of non EU nationals have a look at this infographic drawn up by the European Commission which, unlike the arguments of Imperium Europa, is based on actual number and statistics.

The recently banned Imperium Europa MEP advert is what you would expect from a far right party. The advert uses fear and sweeping statements to influence and is filled with racist undertones. Even though the advert says that Imperium Europa are against illegal immigration it uses images of refugees and people of colour fighting in Paceville. There is also a picture of a patient’s hand suffering from Ebola, a disease whose symptoms start within 2 days after infection. Why am I mentioning this? Because it is unlikely that anyone with this virus survives such a journey but since it looks scary and only parts of Africa are hit with this horrible virus then IE’s reasoning seems to be “might as well stick it in the advert”.

Imperium Europa saying they are against illegal immigration is misleading, especially when seeing the imagery used in the video which is meant to incite hate and fear. Many have argued against the decision to ban the video saying this is curtailing freedom of speech, but freedom of speech is not universal and hate speech does not fall under it.

What is really worrying about the story is the fact that the Broadcasting Authority approved the video and only after public outcry did it decide to ban it.

The video is available elsewhere, on Facebook and YouTube. I’m sharing it (and I have given this a lot of thought) because anyone with two brain cells can find it and because I cannot stand this having 15 thumbs up on YouTube and only 2 thumbs down. Comments are also disabled on the video (surprise, surprise).

Below is the banned advert, however if you do choose to watch it and feel like Imperium Europa might have a point then you owe it to yourself to have a look at the picture and video further down.

The picture is a screen grab from a video released by an Italian newspapers La Repubblica. In it you can see two victims of the sunken boat off Lampedusa, a man and a woman hugging each other. Death is what migrants from Africa face when crossing the Mediterranean sea. Pushbacks, which is what Imperium Europa stand for, is a barbaric act.

Lampedusa tragedy

The images in the video below are disturbing so please proceed with caution.

Finally, I know I will probably get bombarded through the comments section by Imperium Europa fans for this post. I will be removing any comments which break the rules of common decency. Remember that your freedom of speech is not universal.

 

Malta Weekly Roundup – Saviour Balzan, Kevin Plumpton and the Government Gazette

Well of course this week this happened;

It’s finally over, well at least I hope it is. The IIP debate has taken too much of a center stage and other, equally as important, issues have been taking center stage. The best tweet on the matter probably came via the lovely Kristina Chetcuti.

I can’t hide the fact I’m a big fan of Saviour Balzan’s videoblog. He’s a vlog pioneer locally and they to tend to be quite hard hitting, probably more than his weekly MaltaToday columns. This weak was a particularyl vicious one. It was all about how Sandro Chetcuti, a canvasser for the PL in last March’s election, has been nominated as chairman to the Malta Developer’s Association which leads to a conflict of interest. Amongst other things Sandro Chetcuti is said to be a “żatat” and “wieħed li jħobb jippoppa sidru“.

Have a look at the video for Saviour Balzan’s opinion on the matter:

Kevin Plumpton, PN MEP candidate and president of MŻPN didn’t think twice about posting a message on Facebook in the hope of attracting a few followers. Instead he attracted a shit storm when he posted the following on his Facebook page;

KP

After all was said and done it seems like Plumpton is still an MEP candidate, but I wonder if he received Simon Busuttil’s blessing before he posted this:

If you are a fan of design have a look at the latest government gazette which features the “Industrial Property Registrations Directorate Notices

You’re welcome!

This week in Malta’s online media.

So many things happen during the week and sometimes we’re not online to see them. Melahart.com will be going through the bits and bobs that made it to the online medium during the week gone past. Every Friday should be a new instalment of the things I found weird, funny or just plain stupid.

By all means, this is not a roundup of the most important news so don’t get all pissed off if I miss anything. Having said that, I would be super happy and appreciative if you send me any suggestions. If you want I will also link to your blog, Twitter or Facebook page, or I can just keep you anonymous, whatever tickles your fancy.

Well of course this week, this happened:

IIP resolution

1) From treachery to bloodbaths

The citizenship debate has gone European and with it came an appalling sentiment by IIP supporters. Apart from the anti EU stance – which of course will only last a few weeks because then it will be time to promote PL candidates for the MEP elections – some started calling those with a different opinion traitors. While I do not particularly have any stance about the programme I cannot stand this fake nationalism which is being flung about by both parties. It seems like there is no space for debate, just mud slinging, gullible people furiously sharing articles they think they understand and MPs commenting ever so subtly on Facebook.

 

2) Time to learn the meaning of the word “Public”

On the same day news broke that three fools were fined for harassing notorious blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia. My absolute favourite sentence in that piece is:

He said that while people had a right to put up information about themselves on the social media, including Facebook, other people had a right to comment on what was put in the public domain.

So let that be a lesson to us all, once you press send on that status update or photo on Instagram there is no taking it back. Read about my take on the selfie issue.

 

3) Weddings and sexism

This advert, which can be seen incessantly on many local news portals, rubbed me up the wrong way. Yes I’m a feminist and very sensitive when it comes to the portrayal of women as the ones who need to drag their husbands to wedding fairs. It’s archaic and very lazy marketing. Also, not funny!

weekly roundup - wedding fair

4)      Getting freaky with a panda head on The Times

The Times on Tuesday decided to carry a story about KSU putting forward some of their proposals to the Education Minister, Evarist Bartolo, with regards sixth form repeaters. And what photo did The Times use for this article?

panda times

Clever Times, I see what you did there – “distinction between those who failed because of reasonable difficulties, and those who were negligent”.

The photo is actually a still from an attempt by JC students to do a harlem shake when those were in fashion (god knows why).

5) Chris Cardona’s problems with the 140 character limit.

Truth be told I am very glad the Government has made a move towards Twitter to continue reinforcing its message. It is mainly one way conversation as many of my questions remain unanswered but hey at least they started testing digital waters. However it seems that some have a bit of trouble stringing a complete sentence together to make sense.

Pajjiżna jrid ikun leader, fejn ikun ħaddieħor li jħares lejna u jagħmel bħalna u mhux bil-maqlub.

— Chris Cardona (@ChrisCardonaMP) January 15, 2014

 

High selfie esteem?

The term selfie is suddenly on everybody’s lips – stessu if you want to go for the awesome Maltese version. It was all started by Ira Losco expressing her concerns, followed up by a few sexual videos shared as revenge porn and picked up by everybody else who has been living under a rock for the past half a decade (selfies are so 2012).

Now it seems to have also been picked up by Social Dialogue Minister, Helena Dalli, who decided to collect some karma points on such a pressing matter. I am sure the Minister does not mean any harm but, in truth, a pressing matter it is not and reading the full page article on The Times today about how the Minister wants to make the sharing of explicit selfies illegal I felt compelled to follow it up with a blog.

image source: The Mirror

Animal selfies are way cuter! image source: The Mirror

In the meantime another blogger beat me to it, mirroring much of my sentiment. Read J’accuse for a clear explanation encompassing the issue of selfies and the law.

As J’accuse explains “you don’t need consent to publish a selfie because technically the only person who publishes a selfie is the same person who took it.” And as J’accuse explains this is not about being pedantic because if you are in possession of someone else’s explicit selfie, and you publish it, then you are already doing something illegal.

But what about all the distress this causes to the people involved I hear you say. And that is where my point comes in. In today’s society people do not think of consequences, and more importantly, people should come to accept a certain amount of responsibility which comes with our digital freedoms.

You have every right to take sexy photos of yourself but do yourself a favor and think of what might happen once these leave your phone.

There should be no need for a Minister to call press conferences and say that her Ministry is looking into making the sharing of selfies illegal, firstly, because the argument is already flawed as pointed out by J’accuse but also because I don’t need my government to protect me from myself. So for everybody’s sake, I hope no more time is wasted on this matter.

You don’t want your unflattering pictures to make the rounds on the internet? Then DO NOT SHARE them.

An End-of-Year Special: The 9 unsung Maltese heroes of 2013

Keeping with tradition, the last day of 2013 is all about recounting the year gone by. The major newspapers all came out with their most read stories and their reviews but I feel like something is missing. No media outlet is singing the praises of the 2013 Maltese heroes. Those people who in the past year have motivated us, made us smile, helped us get through those boring days at work, made us proud to be Maltese and those who put Malta on the map. So here, with the help of Neil, owner of the blog daklinara.com we make a list of these people who we think deserve to be mentioned one last time before the year’s end.

Yanagi Yukinori - The world Flag Ant Farm

Yanagi Yukinori – The World Flag Ant Farm

The Malta Potatoes Dude
I have already sang many praises for the Malta Potatoes Dude but I thought he deserves another mention. He warmed the hearts of many of us who watched this clip on YouTube and through his words felt the warmth of the Maltese sun in our hearts.

Pole dude
Or to be more correct, Mr Daniel Caruana photographed by the insanely talented Darrin Zammit Lupi, whose photo has made the world rounds and has been featured in every photographic blog on the face of this earth.

Toni Sant
For every Muzika Mod Ieħor podcast. Thank you for taking the time to beautifully craft every single one of them and showcase Malta’s local musical talent (even it was only germinated locally).

Alex Vella Gera
The author of one of the most talked about books in the past few years, Is-Sriep Reġgħu Saru Velenużi, nowadays he is probably most known for turning down a national honor. He is basically the one who said a big FU to the political system in Malta when he wrote “I cannot accept an honour from the Maltese political class which, apart from some exception, has been causing so much damage to my country“. In an interview with Raphael Vassallo, one of the best, most interesting interviews of the year on MaltaToday, he explains his reasoning.

Michael Spagnol
Creator of the Facebook page Kelma Kelma, for making us fall back in love with the Maltese language and at the same time offering some fun education.

The Maltese bus driver
Narrow roads and disrespectful drivers, the Maltese bus drivers have one tough job and I don’t think we sing their praises enough. A lot is said about Arriva but only little is said about the drivers and the improved service they give.  Yes there are exceptions but driving around Malta I have been pleasantly surprised by their courteousness.

Every single person who signed the anti spring hunting referendum petition
Yes you all deserve a mention. You are awesome!

The guys at Merlin Publishers
We know we are not a nation of readers. Just look at the appalling results in the EU Cultural Access and Participation (opens up a PDF). But for some time the guys over at Merlin Publishers have been working relentlessly to produce books by Maltese authors which actually sell. So much thought is poured into every book and thanks to them Maltese authored books are being talked about and read. Everything from the amazing covers to their marketing strategies is creating this buzz for local wordsmiths which is very much welcome. Claire Azzopardi’s Frejp, Carmel Scicluna’s Ossessjoni and of course Ġużè Stagno’s explosive new book What Happens in Brussels Stays in Brussels just to name a few of their amazing books.

The Maltese passport
Maybe not a real person but the Maltese passport has definitely put Malta on the map. But not just that, our passport proved one very important thing: discussions in parliament are actually useless. The Maltese Government decided to go back to the drawing board only after the negative backlash on international media and not when the Opposition put forward arguments about the International Investment Program.

Did we miss anyone in particular? Let us know in the comments section below. Happy New Year!

 

We should really thank Magistrate Carol Peralta.

Magistrate Carol Peralta managed to unite all of us regardless of political party colour. What better gift could have been given to the people of Malta this Christmas?

This Christmas Carol (pun intended, even though it’s been countless times) started yesterday evening when The Times reported one of its journalists was arrested. The journalist, Ivan Martin, was sent to court to report on an eyewitness account of a party being held in court.

carol peralta 1

When Mr Martin arrived he noticed that Magistrate Carol Peralta was entertaining people in a court room. Alcohol was present and so were cigarettes – please keep in mind this is in a court room. Ivan Martin tried to take a picture of what was happening and it was then that Magistrate Carol Peralta asked for him to be arrested.

Ivan Martin was held for three hours at the police station but was later released.

The story spread like wildfire on Facebook (and so did the memes) and for the first time in eons most of the commentators seemed to be in agreement. What Magistrate Carol Peralta did was a blatant abuse of power.


carol peralta

All three political parties were in agreement and the Government condemned such abusive behavior.

This is not the first time Magistrate Carol Peralta was in the middle of controversy. Just last year he conditionally discharged a person after trying to run over someone and he is also allegedly linked with the freemasons.

The Magistrate has now said that he would be happy to resign if he’s found to have acted abusively. Fair enough, however, since this whole thing has gone down, it’s the judicial system in Malta which has really been hurt. So much for the dignity of the law courts and the judiciary. The law courts are one of the highest institutions in the country. It is not a place for Christmas parties – even if everybody else is doing it – and it’s definitely not the place where one should throw his weight about.

So what are your thoughts? Should Magistrate Carol Peralta resign? Let me know in the comments section below.

5 people who deserve Ġieħ ir-Repubblika more than Gaia

gaia cauchi

An 11 year old girl wins the Junior Eurovision and she is earmarked to be the one to receive Ġieħ ir-Repubblika, the highest honour Malta can give to a person.

This decision says so much about the warped priorities of this country we live in.

The fact that it was unanimously approved by cabinet is an even worse trainwreck, especially considering the current debate in Parliament talking about how giving out too many awards ‘would reduce prestige’ while speaking about the Ġieħ ir-Repubblika Act. News flash but the same goes for giving such a prestigious award to someone who doesn’t really deserve it.

Gaia Cauchi might have done an amazingly good job and also managed to put Malta on the map for a few seconds, but is that all we aspire to nowadays? 

Since the cabinet seems to be at a loss about who should get the Ġieħ ir-Repubblika, I went ahead and came up with a few people who really do deserve it for their outstanding work.

John Dalli
A former PN Minister and contender for the post of ‘Leader’ who was then given the ultimate cushy job of EU commissioner, John Dalli definitely put Malta on the map. With his little Snus incident which got him the boot from the EU and all his shady trips to the Bahamas the man is an enigma shrouded in mystery. Court cases against his sacking from the EU Commission are currently ongoing and we are still scratching our heads and trying to understand how all that happened. Since the Labour party election win he is now gracing 60% of news stories thanks to his new job as health consultant for the Government.

Daphne Caruana Galizia
For all her faults she is the one who made blogging a reality here in Malta. Forget all her posts about how famous she is according to Alexa, the woman is a local Google legend. Search for whatever you want to search for and you are guaranteed to find a post of hers on Google’s first page, and that is with no knowledge of SEO best practices.

Franco Debono
Another limelight superhero, or at least he used to be before the election. We all know him as the PN backbencher who worked so hard for Malta and the Maltese, or to be more honest, who worked so hard for himself – as everyone should, mind you. After the PL election win he was given the coveted job of Law Commissioner and since then he has kept his job as a criminal lawyer and has been hanging out with JPO, trying to stop fights at Serkin.

The current MEPA board
For all the pre election talk about how important our environment is and how we need to protect it, the Government has done a questionable job when appointing the current MEPA board. Granted, certain atrocities were done by the previous Government but the tally on certain developments is quickly evening up the score. In the past few months we saw the approval of the Mistra project and the extension of the Portomaso complex, all the while forgetting the 72,000 vacant properties.

The hunting lobby
The continuos massacre of protected birds, the way they make every centimeter of public land theirs and that feeling of never being able to truly enjoy the countryside are just a few of the reasons why the hunting lobby deserves this the most.

Do you have an idea about who should be nominated for Ġieħ ir-Repubblika? Don’t forget to comment below.

The good, the bad, and the ugly – Nicholas Azzopardi, JPO and Franco Debono in the Serkin Brawl

Let me start by saying that all parties in this story are bad. Regardless of who provoked who, getting into a fist fight because of your partisan beliefs is idiotic. It is even more idiotic to get into such brawls if you hold a certain position of respect be it a Chairmanship or a Commissioner of Law (another dent in the Malta Taghna lkoll slogan).

Truth is, no one will ever really know what actually happened in Rabat at 5 am on Sunday 4th of August 2013. Why? Because we will get two different versions from both sides and the truth will be somewhere in middle. Having said that there are still a few conclusions to be made – the good, the bad, and the ugly, that is.

The good, the bad and the ugly

The Good. 
Without any shadow of a doubt The Good here is Serkin’s pastizzi. I mean, honestly, those pastizzi ARE the best you’ll ever find on the island, the guy is open almost around the clock and the service is always delivered with a smile. What more could you ask for?

The Bad. 
Even though the truth will never come to surface The Bad ones here are JPO and Franco Debono. Even if JPO was provoked he should know better not to get into these kind of situations. And what to say for Franco Debono? Well he too should be steering clear of any trouble, especially the partisan kind. In a few versions of the story, Franco Debono is said to “intervene”. Why on earth would he do that? He might be the Law Commissioner but he is not the Police. JPO posted a message on this Facebook wall titled “PROVOKAZZJONI SFACCATA U MOQZIEZA” (a blatant and disgraceful provocation) a a few hours after the incident saying “It is obvious that his intention was to provoke a serious incident.” So if this was obvious why didn’t you just take your pastizzi take-away and leave the scene?

The Ugly.
Waking up on Sunday to the news that politicians were involved in partisan brawls is ugly. Whoever mouthed the first provocation and whoever threw the first punch it is shameful that there are fights of petty political nature. What is more shameful is ganging up on someone because of his beliefs. Instead of having politicians (hey these are after all there to serve the people) calm the situation down and calling the Police, they themselves get involved and then act as the victims. I’m with J’accuse on this one, it really is a Banana Republic.