Journalist-activist Manuel Delia will be taking up a six-month programme by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom over concerns for his safety here in Malta he has confirmed, after doubts about his motives were raised by Shift News editor Caroline Muscat yesterday.
Delia hit the headlines earlier this week after he told an Italian newspaper that he was leaving Malta to ensure his and his family’s safety after having received threats from inside and outside prison in recent weeks.
Threats made to Delia were condemned by many, including Opposition leader Bernard Grech and Prime Minister Robert Abela, who asked the Police Commissioner to investigate the matter. The Institute of Maltese Journalists did the same.
But while many expressed solidarity with Delia, none was forthcoming from the Shift News with editor Caroline Muscat suggesting that rather than fearing for his safety, Delia had simply opted to take up a temporary six-month programme in a European city.
Responding to Muscat, Delia explained that he had in fact been contacted by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom during a cyber-bullying campaign against him and others last month. Delia said he accepted the offer, which he saw as “an opportunity to draw the heat away from his family”.
The ECMPF scheme, he clarified, “offers temporary shelter for journalists facing harassment and intimidation as a direct result of their work”.
Delia said the concerns about his security came in three “layers”. Firstly, he is a government critic who has ruffled many feathers and already a target for many. Delia pointed out that his wife had already been assaulted in Valletta once over his activism.
Another layer, he said, was the fact that he had recently undergone weeks of cyber-intimidation, email and website spoofing, text harassment and anonymous phone calls.
“The content of these efforts all appeared to have been made with the intent of confirming what Yorgen Fench’s defenders in court and outside it were alleging about my reporting,” Delia said. “It is clear that I have been singled out, by him, as Yorgen Fenech’s principal enemy in the press.”
Finally, Delia said that with an election approaching, tension was mounting. “There are Labour voters that think of the election as an opportunity to punish and silence critics of the government like me.”
There were others, he added, who felt that his criticism of the government was the reason the Nationalist Party continued to lose elections.
“In this heat anyone comforted by the environment of impunity, the propaganda on Labour news media, and the discrediting campaign supporting Yorgen Fenech, might think it heroic to cause me, or my family, or my property physical damage,” Delia said.
“It would be irresponsible not to take measures to avoid inviting violence.”
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