Former Labour parliamentary secretary Deborah Schembri went on her party’s station to tell us about journalism. Having failed to get elected at the last election, she’s now preaching on where journalism has its limits.

In truth, the limits were exceeded on Monday when Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered. We welcome the clarification Dr Schembri issued yesterday afternoon, where she strongly condemned the killing, but such arguments cannot be ignored any longer, unless we want a repeat murder.

We had heard similar arguments when the building of the Times of Malta in Valletta was burned down by Labour Party thugs, the excuse then being they were acting under provocation. Nobody came forward to say why they could burn a building with impunity. Dr Schembri, taking a break from her government retainers, thought it fit to tell us that where freedom of expression in concerned, there is a point one should not go beyond because it hurts people unnecessarily.

She called it the abuse of such a freedom, saying such abuse hurt and irritated people.

Of course, it does. That’s why it is called freedom of expression.

Such statements by Dr Schembri are more than irritating and, yes, one can go as far and make the same mistake as her and call it an abuse of such a freedom. But she has a right.

A woman lay dead in a field in Bidnija while Dr Schembri called for adequate “punishment” for those who “abuse” freedom of expression. It was an insensitive thing to say, maybe even offensive given this week’s events, more so when the former parliamentary secretary went on to say that, because of such abuse, there will be people who would want to take the law into their own hands.

That is exactly what happened to Ms Caruana Galizia. But what does Dr Schembri intend to say? That someone should withhold his opinion out of fear that one gets blown up inside one’s car? That one should cower in the face of abuse, in the face of reports of government retainers totalling thousands of euros to Dr Schembri?

She should have gone on television to explain that because it does not look good. It even sounds offensive to the taxpayer.

What happened on Monday changed the face of journalism in this country. This was a callous murder of a person who spoke out against abuse without restraint, who exposed the government’s many failings, who showed no fear. She paid the highest price and this must not happen again.

Dr Schembri, who once led the campaign for the introduction of divorce in Malta, knows very well as a lawyer that there are libel laws to protect people from media reports that are unjust, unfair or downright untruthful. The solution to that is not restraint but faster court hearings to ensure timely justice.

Her comments on television were insensitive but, even though we do not agree with her, this newspaper upholds and defends her right to say them. That is freedom of expression.

There will be more like this in the weeks ahead as people try to excuse the condemnable. They are free to do that but the media is free to reply back, in full force.

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