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Black Monday should never have happened - Labour leader

Political media 'should be open to criticism'

Labour leader Joseph Muscat yesterday said that much more could have been done to avoid the violent events of Black Monday, insisting those acts "should never have happened".

The events of October 15, 1979 did not weaken the politicians or the institutions that suffered the attacks, he said, but the perpetrators and the politicians who in people's eyes represented them.

"When I was elected Labour leader I made a historic apology to all those who may have been hurt by the actions of those who used the Labour Party and then threw it away, leaving it stained with their misdeeds. I repeat this today, 30 years after Black Monday, because I honestly believe that all people of goodwill agree with me that these were acts that should have never happened and much more could have been done to avoid them," he said.

Dr Muscat was giving a public talk at the Tumas Fenech Foundation for Education in Journalism on the theme: "What does the politician expect from journalists".

Significantly, the talk was held yesterday on the 30th anniversary of the day - which has become known as Black Monday - when Labour thugs ransacked and burnt The Times building in Valletta and then went on to attack opposition leader Eddie Fenech Adami's family at their Birkirkara home.

Dr Muscat said his generation was born in the wake of those "wounds" and did not want those events to ever be repeated.

Former Labour minister and foundation member Lino Spiteri, in a brief comment on the events of Black Monday, said he was ashamed they were perpetrated under a Labour government and welcomed Dr Muscat's apology.

Dr Muscat also made reference to Labour-leaning journalists who suffered in the 1950s and 1960s for upholding the right to freedom of expression during colonial times and the Church's interdiction of Labour supporters.

Describing the relationship between politicians and journalists as complementary in the democratic life of a country, Dr Muscat went as far as to say that journalists served as public intellectuals.

Looking ahead, he also proposed the creation of a statute of rights for journalists to give them protection from interference by media owners. Another proposal was the creation of a regulator, which could take the form of an Ombudsman, to safeguard the rights of those the media reports about.

Dr Muscat spoke on the need for a strong media ethics commission that would be totally autonomous from the State but fully recognised by it.

With reference to the political media he said they should be open to critical views and after 18 years of pluralism it was time to reflect on how they could be a source of useful information for wider audiences.

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