Yesterday afternoon, I decided to head down to Floriana to report on Repubblika’s protest after their first night camping in tents outside the police depot.

What followed was a complete misrepresentation by Karl Stagno Navarra on ONE TV’s show Pjazza. Lovin Malta has sent ONE TV a right of reply, to be read out on Pjazza this evening, which can be read in full at the bottom of this article.

After I arrived at the protest, two Nationalist MPs turned up for a few minutes to express their support for Repubblika’s demonstration, which is demanding the arrest of former minister Konrad Mizzi. A priest later turned up, presumably en route to the Curia, which is opposite the depot, and stopped to speak to us too.

They weren’t the only people to stop by. An elderly woman approached Repubblika to thank them for their efforts and, with tears in her eyes, expressed her wish that she were younger so she would be able to attend their protest tomorrow.

A Repubblika activist also told me that a man had initially approached them to criticise them but, after speaking to each other at length, they realised they actually agreed with each other. It’s funny what discussion beyond the insulting Facebook one-liners can do, isn’t it?

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Maybe that’s exactly what Karl Stagno Navarra wanted to avoid when he aired a political analysis of the encounter, that someone filmed from inside a car, last night.

“It’s extraordinary,” the Pjazza presenter exclaimed. “I’m not attacking the fact that Tim Diacono was there but this footage brought together four institutions that have declared themselves to be against the PL or the PL government – Repubblika, the PN, the Church and the media – all representative of the establishment against the PL government.”

“Was it a coincidence that they happened to be together in those six seconds of footage? I don’t know but as fate would have it, they were exposed in that footage.”

The obvious impression given is that we were somehow caught plotting against the government, which besides being false is also weird logic seeing as the protest was against a politician who is no longer part of the government or the Labour Party.

It’s almost funny that the most prominent journalist on a TV station run by a party which has been in government for nine years and which has escaped punishment despite not publishing its accounts for 11 years would have the cheek to mock anyone as being ‘the establishment’, let alone a five-year old independent media house.

But the truth is it’s not funny, because the implications are clear. ONE TV is a media house that is owned by the Labour Party, so when its journalists make political statements, the obvious conclusion is that they’re statements that are endorsed by the government.

The fact that Energy Minister Miriam Dalli was present with Stagno Navarra but chose to continue his narrative instead of challenging him or expressing her disagreement only adds fuel to this theory.

So what exactly is the message the government is sending out via ONE TV?

Well, whether by intention or not, it will certainly discourage people from attending Repubblika’s protest tomorrow evening at Castille Square, which makes it a very insidious form of tyranny.

You can attend the protest all you like and the police won’t arrest or attack you, but you could well be singled out, smeared and completely misrepresented on the ruling party’s own media station.

Will you attend the protest if you’re scared of some government retribution? What if you work with the government?

It will also send journalists an implicit message that they’d better watch where they tread because their actions will be misrepresented by the government as an attempt to depose it from power and subvert the will of the people.

Naturally, if people believe that message, some might go after the journalist and one only needs to look back at 16th October 2017 to know how dangerous that strategy can be.

Of course, this completely flies in the face of Prime Minister Robert Abela’s repeated calls for maturity beyond political partisanship and to introduce new safeguards for journalism in the wake of the public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

If he really means what he says, he should start by looking very closely at the media house run by the party he leads.

Stagno Navarra’s segment last night is also a prime example of why Lovin Malta filed a constitutional case, following a crowdfunded Kaxxaturi campaign, which calls on ONE and NET to follow the same regulations on political impartiality as TVM.

Stagno Navarra would not have been able to air that kind of political propaganda on TVM, without even mentioning why the protest was organised (ahem, it’s calling for the arrest of a politician who Robert Abela himself expelled from the PL), in the first place.

Why should the political parties impose rules for the national broadcaster but then create legislation which allows them to ignore these same rules for their own media houses?

If ever there was a clear example of an ‘establishment’, surely this is it.

Lovin Malta doesn’t believe that political parties should get to play by different rules to everyone else and we have therefore sent Stagno Navarra the following right of reply to read out on Pjazza this evening.

Lovin Malta refers to a segment in the latest episode of One Productions’ Pjazza, aired on Wednesday 27th October 2021, hosted by Karl Stagno Navarra. 

Tim Diacono was working as a journalist in his professional capacity to cover the protest as is his duty and obligation as a member of the press.

It is ludicrous to attack and target a member of the press on these grounds, particularly while in the performance of their duties as a reporter. 

Stagno Navarra goes on to claim that Lovin Malta has declared itself “against the Labour Party”, a completely unfounded allegation that has no basis in fact and is defamatory. 

This incident was particularly shocking given the recent conclusions of the public inquiry linked to the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. We would like to reiterate that over its five-year history, Lovin Malta has reported extensively on a myriad of issues with fearsome independence and will continue to do so.

Lovin Malta is requesting that Stagno Navarra issue a full clarification on tonight’s episode of Pjazza making it clear that:

1. Lovin Malta has not declared itself to be against the Labour Party. Any statement to the contrary is libellous, defamatory and a clear intention to tarnish our reputation.

2.Tim Diacono was working at the protest as was his obligation and duties as a journalist. He was not even asked for comment before the defamatory allegations were published.

3.“The media” is not a single entity which has an agenda against the party or the government. Claims that it does sharply contradict repeated pledges by Prime Minister and Labour Party Leader Robert Abela to safeguard journalism as the fourth estate in democracy.

Lovin Malta is requesting that the above statement be read out in full on tonight’s episode of Pjazza. We reserve all legal rights to protect our reputation.

Will you attend the protest tomorrow?