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Robert Abela: ‘Politicians Must Be Held To Scrutiny, Even In Their Private Lives’

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Politicians must accept to be subjected to a high level of scrutiny, including in their private lives, Prime Minister Robert Abela has said.

“At the end of the day, people must make holistic judgments, both in terms of our public work but also what happens in our private lives, where certain aspects can reflect on each other,” he told a political activity today.

Abela was responding to a journalist from Union Print who referred to a recent case when “certain sections of the media displayed a lack of ethics about a person who was passing through personal problems and published her details without any consideration”.

“Do you think human respect should prevail over all other considerations?” the journalist asked.

Although he didn’t specify what he was talking about, it appeared to be a reference to the recent reportage of Education Minister Justyne Caruana’s hospitalisation.

The question and answer about media ethics can be found at 40:05 of the above video.

Some media houses, including Lovin Malta, reported that the minister was hospitalised after overdosing on legal medication, prompting a backlash from several politicians, who alleged this amounted to an intrusion of privacy.   

Jason Micallef, the chairperson of Labour’s party TV station ONE, claimed Lovin Malta’s report was “filth, extreme, hateful and spiteful”.

However, Abela said he doesn’t believe the reports were unethical.

“I understand the sentiment among people who passed their comments, but I’ve always believed in the principle that politicians must be held to a high level of acceptable scrutiny,” he said. “I believe that’s how it should be, even for our private lives.”

“At the end of the day, people must make holistic judgments, both in terms of our public work but also what happens in our private lives, where certain aspects can reflect on each other.

“I appeal to journalists to be responsible and careful when reporting, but I believe this is already the case. However, the principle should definitely be that politicians are subject to higher levels of scrutiny. That’s how it should be and we have a duty to respond to all questions from the press, both those we like and those we don’t.”

Abela then pointed a finger at Opposition leader Bernard Grech, who recently lost a complaint he had filed at the Broadcasting Authority over a recent interview on TVM’s current affairs programme ‘Insights’.

“The Opposition complained to the BA when he was faced with tough questions; he accuses journalists of being biased against him when they ask him questions he doesn’t like.”

“His behaviour and responses instigate the public to attack the media and I don’t believe this attitude is acceptable. The media is the fourth estate of a strong democracy and we have a duty to safeguard it, not by individualising attacks against PBS journalists.”

“Should I do the same? Of course I’ve been scrutinised and attacked but I must be held accountable, not stay individualising PBS journalists. Attitude means a lot; I’m going to very clear that this level of arrogance with the media is unacceptable.”

Do you agree with the Prime Minister’s comments about the level of acceptable scrutiny for politicians?

READ NEXT: Why The Right To Know Sometimes Outweighs The Right To Privacy

Tim is interested in the rapid evolution of human society brought about by technological advances. He’s passionate about justice, human rights and cutting-edge political debates. You can follow him on Twitter at @timdiacono or reach out to him at [email protected]

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