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This election is not about the Panama Papers

'This has truly been a golden age for Maltese journalists'

Or at least not just about the Panama Papers.

This election is about saving journalists their jobs.

You see, the thing is, this really was the government that kept on giving. And I’m not referring to the just announced minimum wage increase which we will get in two years time, nor the hundreds of employees who have just started working with government and have been immediately given jobs for life, come what may.

No, I am referring to the myriad juicy stories the government has laid out over the last few years, a veritable cornucopia of delights that would whet any news editor’s appetite.

First up came the appetiser, with a previously illegal petrol station allowed to open, and some coffee at Cafe Premier with a hefty €4 million bill.

Having warmed up, they brought out the Big Guns. Rolling up his sleeves and getting ready to deliver was Konrad Mizzi, ready and waiting. He may have taken his time delivering his pet project, the new power station, but things moved swiftly to get his wife (ex-wife?) installed in downtown Shanghai on a €13,000 a month retainer, plus all the extras (you know: free school for the kids, furnishings for her home, and of course new bedsheets).

She helped proceedings by telling reporters to judge her by her results. So, a couple of months ago, those same reporters went to call on her bosses at the Malta Development Corporation. Unfortunately, the bosses couldn’t help as there were no reports, so we may never get to see these results.

But never mind, once the starter pistol was fired there was a race to the finish line. Journalists at One TV suddenly became ex-journalists and were there to feed their now ex-colleagues with information as they transformed into communications consultants.

Except they did not seem to be very good at actually communicating anything. They were all gagged by the ‘commercial nature’ of the questions asked. Damn you Freedom of Information Act!

What was left of the journalistic community were left breathless with a Noah’s flood of stories to fill their pages and TV and radio minutes

Meanwhile, what was left of the journalistic community were left breathless with a Noah’s flood of stories to fill their pages and TV and radio minutes.

Backbenchers popped up like, well, popper-uppers, taking on the roles of chairmen of this and that state board with alarming alacrity, whilst ministers provided more Positions of Trust to the nation. At the last count over a 160 ‘Positions’ and ‘Persons’ were created, of which 83 in the OPM.

Meanwhile, our Home Affairs Minister went all Father Christmas on us, dishing out amnesties like they were going out of fashion. Is it any wonder therefore that he received a rousing welcome by his clients - I mean - the residents of Corradino Prison.

And our Transport Minister, Joe Mizzi, managed to give journalists a lighter moment or ten, as he spoke about traffic jams being perceptions, and turning up in parliament in, shall we say, a ‘more relaxed’ attire.

It’s a shame that some journalists decided to cloud this man’s ray of sunshine by mentioning that he happened to go to Spain before the awarding of the bus tender to the Spanish company Leon. Still at least there were no private jet flights to a football match for Minister Mizzi.

It’s also a shame that he never told us where the oil reserves could be found. But then again that might have been because oil (heavy fuel or otherwise), was not part of Konrad’s plan.

But things were now on a roll. Police Commissioner Rizzo bowed out just before he was going to take the Dalligate scandal to the next level. His replacement Ray Zammit, had his career cut short thanks to the unfortunate appearance of a tape recording involving himself and the driver of his cousin Minister Mallia.Michael Cassar who replaced Zammit and was previously a major figure in Malta’s anti-drug

Michael Cassar who replaced Zammit and was previously a major figure in Malta’s anti-drug squad, suddenly took ill at the same time he was presented with a report by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit about the Panama Papers.

And last but not least, the current Commissioner (the fourth in four years) obliged the press by being caught coolly munching on bunny-rabbit on the night a major story involving more financial shenanigans hit the newsroom. Boy, were those journalists happy.

Amidst all these goings-on, we had little side dishes of disabled blue badges for handicapped people who could only walk in high heels, brothers of permanent secretaries who allegedly built flats paid by kickbacks on contracts to build new schools, a series of outré affairs and bedscapades that would make the author of Fifty Shades of Grey envious, and finally the Prime Minister himself who turned the furrowed brow into a case study for body-language experts the world over.

This has truly been a golden age for Maltese journalists.

So when you go to vote next June 3, don’t be selfish. Don’t just think of yourself. Think also of the journalists and ask yourself this - do you want them to starve come June 4?

 

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