Labour’s new English-language website is “not a news portal” and “will not serve as a vehicle for propaganda”, but will actually “keep government in check”, Randolph Debattista pledged in his first editorial of The Journal.
“Our aim is not to emulate any news website in Malta. We don’t need to. Our objective is to present analytical insight on issues of national interest,” he wrote, adding that the website would have no sensational headlines “or clickbait material”.
“We’re declaring our agenda upfront. Yes, TheJournal.mt is owned by the Labour Party. But make no mistake, it will not serve as a vehicle for propaganda. I wouldn’t have accepted to lead it if it were the case,” he said, describing it instead as a space where one can discuss policy, dissect complex issues “and, yes, keep the Government in check.”
Debattista said he would “never forget” that evening when Times of Malta announced he was being sacked as Labour’s CEO.
He admitted to keeping a very low profile since then, limiting his social media presence “and refusing every request for comment by my friends in the press”.
“This meant that I had more time to observe and reflect on what was going on in Malta. A new Prime Minister, a new Leader of the Opposition, the handling of the pandemic, the revelations surrounding the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder, the unprecedented Rule of Law changes and, on a more general note, the Facebookisation of politics.”
Debattista said that growing up in an apolitical family meant it was always been natural for him “to see things in a more objective way” than most of his peers.
“My views were not passed on to me by family, or dictated by any political figure I chose to follow religiously, but rather, by the quest for social justice; social mobility; the fight for a liberal and progressive Malta which converts taboos into non-issues and where everyone is free to live as one desires.”
“In order to achieve this, we need the freethinkers to take a more active role on the national stage. We need less partisan bickering and more informed discussion. And this is precisely what led me to take on this new venture,” he said.
He added that it was striking for this initiative to be launched by the Labour Party at the end of its second term in government “when the temptation of going into a siege mentality becomes ever so real”.
“But it is also natural for Leftists to feel the need to analyse and discuss policy, often in a passionate way,” he concluded.
The online publication’s first article shared to Facebook was a study by Labour’s statistician Vince Marmara into the country’s views on euthanasia. Marmara’s studies are believed to be a key element of the website’s strategy.
Another feature in the website is a segment called Brussels Bubble, which promises to be an analysis of EU matters.
Debattista, who is the partner of Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer, lives between Brussels and Malta.
The website is being launched at a time when political ownership of TV media in particular is being increasingly questioned in the country, with Lovin Malta taking to court a legal challenge of Malta’s Broadcasting Act.
What do you think of Debattista’s pledge?