All You Need To Know About The Times' News Editor Joining PN
Caroline Muscat made some important headlines today
The Nationalist Party today announced that Times of Malta's News Editor Caroline Muscat has resigned to lead the party's electoral campaign. Most people were shocked by the announcement given Ms Muscat's lack of partisan involvement throughout her career as a seasoned journalist and environmental activist. But what exactly does this mean for all the players involved? We've tried to piece the puzzle together.
First of all, who is Caroline Muscat?
Caroline Muscat is an award-winning journalist and, until yesterday, Times of Malta’s News Editor. A born activist, she began her career at Greenpeace where she served as a communications director between 1999 and 2003. One highlight of her activist career was when she climbed the hospital incinerator to raise awareness about its hazards. She joined The Sunday Times in 2008 as an assistant editor but left in 2010 to run her own business with then partner Tolga Temuge, a former executive of Birdlife. Their company, East To West Communications focused on providing communications consultancy to NGOs. But soon after the last general election she returned to Times of Malta as a journalist, eventually being appointed News Editor. Tellingly, as a student, her research focused on ‘Democracy and Activism in the Age of Spin’. Read her old blog for more insight.
What kind of stories is she known for?
Caroline Muscat is best known for journalism relating to the environment, human rights and corruption. She exposed how businessman Mark Gaffarena made a killing on a Valletta property by buying it mere weeks before the government expropriated it, a story that led to the resignation of Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon. She also won the EU Journalist Award in 2011 for an article entitled ‘Seeing black and right’, which looked into the humanitarian aspects of racism. The article, written while she was a freelance journalist, had been published on MaltaToday whose online editor Matthew Vella had this to say about her: “Caroline's journalism has brought to light many aspects of environmental and social justice in Malta that few other members in the trade manage to accomplish. Her profound insight into the lives of migrants and asylum seekers and the challenges they face in Malta is unique. It has been MaltaToday's pleasure to host her on our blogs and print pages."
Why did she join the PN?
According to a statement issued today - the same day she tendered her resignation to Times of Malta - Caroline Muscat decided to give up her journalism career because “the government is riddled with corruption”. She said: “Throughout my life I have always avoided being partisan because of my role as a journalist, but I now feel that I must take a stand… Journalists are unable to do their job with the clamp down on information and lack of transparency that has become the hallmark of this government. This situation is damaging our country and is a threat to democracy. I have decided to accept this role within the PN because I believe that Simon Busuttil can lead the PN to form a strong alternative government that puts the national interest first.”
What does this mean for the PN?
This is not yet clear. On the one hand, this move demonstrates that PN leader Simon Busuttil is slowly managing to turn his party into a coalition of people who are unwilling to tolerate the current system of government. He has already recruited TV presenter Salvu Mallia, who describes himself as a former Labourite. He is also working on bringing former Labour MP Marlene Farrugia into the fold despite the fact that she attempted to set up her own party earlier this year. Caroline Muscat adds credibility to Simon Busuttil’s mission of creating honest politics. However, her effectiveness in communications has yet to be proven and the fact that she can no longer lead the news agenda at Times of Malta might be a loss for the PN in the long run. This move also confirms that Simon Busuttil wants to surround himself by very strong-minded women as he has already done with the likes of Ann Fenech. As a very forceful character, Caroline Muscat is unlikely to let him get away with anything that goes against her ideals.
What does this mean for The Times?
Times of Malta has not had an easy year and this is another blow to the country’s most established media organisation. In March, managing director Adrian Hillman resigned following allegations that he set up offshore structures similar to those exposed in Panama Papers. Caroline Muscat’s immediate resignation means Times of Malta has now also lost one of its best journalists. It also exposes the organisation to criticism that its news agenda has for the past few months been driven by somebody who may have been negotiating her position with the PN for a while. Just last month, Ms Muscat interviewed Simon Busuttil.
What does this mean for Labour?
This is also unclear for the time being. Labour’s media reacted by accusing Ms Muscat of having “posed as an independent journalist” while writing stories against the government. It is clear that her past work will now be undermined by the Labour Party. However, having somebody as accomplished as Caroline Muscat now planning the PN’s election campaign could put the Labour Party under more pressure than usual. Specifically, it is now perhaps more clear than ever that the PN will not let the government get away with corruption. Caroline Muscat’s task is now to find a way to make this aspect of her communications palatable to an electorate that is largely satisfied with the achievements of the government even if very cynical about its level of transparency and honesty.
How are people reacting to the news?
People who do not know Caroline Muscat are mostly unsure about how to react to the news. Others have given pointed reactions. Here are some.