The Institute of Maltese Journalists has urged police to take against the “vicious attacks” aimed towards journalists who attended Prime Minister Robert Abela’s press conference on new COVID-19 mitigation measures.
Several journalists were subjected to hate speech after asking pressing questions at the press conference, including whether Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci will consider resigning in light of the spike of COVID-19 cases.
“It is the duty of the journalist to ask questions about who should be held accountable in front of the public. If this is not done, the journalist will only be a propagandist,” the IGM said.
“In a situation where the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are at a level of concern, the journalist has a duty to ask questions that the troubled public awaits answers for,” it said.
Among those who attacked journalists online was TV personality and personal trainer Rachel Micallef, who threatened physical violence against the journalists.
“I would like to work part-time with the boom mic so that I can break the jaws of four so-called journalists,” she said online.
Mario Azzopardi, a controversial local director, also took a jab at the journalists by ridiculing the profession.
“These basic journalists who run from conference to conference know that Malta hates and makes fun of them,” he said.
While showing solidarity with the attacked journalists, the IGM also urged the police to take legal action against those found engaging in hate speech and offer a guarantee of security to journalists.
Speaking in defence of journalists, Ġorġ Mallia, Head of the Department of Communication and Media at the University of Malta, said:
“True journalism is not the reporting of communiqués. They are not there to report the official statements. True journalism is there to ask awkward questions. To go deep into places kept secret by the people. The armies of organised trolls who raise their spirits every time journalism really does its job are a clear indication that it is needed.”
The IGM ended by calling on authorities to reiterate their support for journalists and to help raise awareness among the population about the importance of the role of journalists in a democratic society.
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