Dissecting the lament of seven newsrooms against Magistrate Rachel Montebello’s decree

We read on Sunday that seven Maltese newsrooms have raised ‘deep concerns’ following Magistrate Rachel Montebello’s decision to charge The Times of Malta with contempt of court for the publication of certain material despite the Magistrate having ordered a ban on publishing any material extracted from Yorgen Fenech’s phone.

It would appear that these newsrooms believe that their publications ‘are deemed to be of major public interest’ and hence they should not be liable to prosecution. Frankly, if they don’t want to be prosecuted, all they have to do is act responsibly, and abide by a Court order. As for ‘the many risks and threats that are made to us [them] on a daily basis…’, I have only two words to say “poor devils”.  I doubt I have ever read anything so pathetically feeble.

The Law is there to be observed by each and every law-abiding citizen irrespective of trade or profession. The Romans had an expression for all this – “lex dura lex” – the law is harsh but is the law. The moment you have a citizen or organization claiming to have a right to be exempted from prosecution for contempt because of their poppycock reasoning, it is then that democracy and society start to be destabilized.

If these journalists genuinely believe that “the newsrooms would like to reaffirm our [their] commitment towards pursuing truth and informing readers…” then the first thing they should do is roll up their sleeves and start reporting impartially and with equanimity instead of wallowing in behaving like puppets dangling from the strings of different puppeteers forgetting that they have a job to do which must be done  with integrity, intelligence and without fearing the puppeteers.

As for “They were all matters related to wrongdoing by public officials which merited timely action to be taken, confirming that the public had a right to know about them,” they should remember that indeed, the public does have a right know but all in good time.  The public should not be considered or treated as an incompetent lot that has to be subjected to a constant array of harping, targeting and hounding indiscriminately an individual before he/she has actually been found guilty and condemned by a court of law. In so doing, these newsrooms are merely accommodating the politicians’ ongoing intrigues on home ground. This is a waste of undue energy which could also be dedicated to opening up to the world at large in their reporting in our local media. For example, only last week the the recent assassination of Giorgos Karavaz the veteran Greek criminal journalist who was shot dead in front of his home in Athens and many other news items which our journalists choose to ignore preferring instead in needless nit-picking and regurgitating stale news which serves no other purpose than to accentuate their poor journalistic attributes. . .

They also stated that the decree of Magistrate Montebello “…also undermines the freedom of expression of journalists.” Freedom of expression is only undermined if and when journalists breach their own code. They should always bear in mind that just as much as they have a right to freedom of expression ergo speech, so do all citizens including suspects of any crime until such time as the suspect or suspects are found guilty and sentenced by our Courts. Until then their rights should never be trampled on particularly more so when professing to act as watchdog for the Fourth Estate.

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