1. It all started when Nationalist MP Maria Deguara had complained about how Labour Party-owned ONE News had reported a concern of hers.
Speaking in Parliament, Deguara was making some points about COVID-19, and the virus’ relation to youths. Reacting to a spike in cases following New Year’s Eve and concerned about the upcoming Carnival, she asked whether youths boarding the Gozo ferry should be forced to submit an address to show they are staying in bubbles when arriving in Gozo.
During her speech, she said: “I am saying that teens will be teens, who don’t think that illness will ever attack them. However, we need to be careful not over whether it attacks them, but over whether that which they carry attacks the most vulnerable.”
2. Shortly afterwards, Minister Clint Camilleri said: “I don’t agree with her that teens don’t believe they can get sick or that they don’t care about their parents or elderly. It seems like she wanted to say that teens are spreading the sickness. I don’t think that’s the case”.
3. Following this sitting, ONE News ran with the below headline:
4. On 20th January, Deguara officially complained about the reporting during a sitting in Parliament.
“Mr President, I want you to investigate that which was said about me on Super One,” she said, saying the station had unfairly misrepresented her words. Deguara maintained that she had never said that teens spread illnesses, and was instead giving advice on how to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
This led to government MP Glenn Bedingfield interjecting, saying Super One didn’t exist anymore, advising Deguara to “update” herself.
5. After the constant jabs, Speaker Anglu Farrugia looked at the article and complaint in question, and delivered his ruling.
Referring to previous cases, including Parliamentary Practice in the United Kingdom dating back to 1973, Farrugia made it clear that “fairness in this regard means a fair presentation of what took place as it impressed the hearers” and condemned “reckless” misrepresentation.
6. Finally, he gave his decision – ONE’s report was not a false report, but it was twisted.
Saying that he felt that the cases “did not amount to a false report, but we have a twisted report” he asked ONE News to issue a clarification over what is being declared in his ruling.
However, he agreed that at no point did Deguara say that teens spread viruses to the vulnerable.
7. Using the wording to their advantage, ONE and Net were both able to spin opposite headlines out of the same ruling.
Within the final articles, Net doesn’t mention the ruling in full at any point. ONE’s article ends with a slight caveat, where they note that the Speaker did say their report was “twisted” and that, according to the Speaker, Deguara never said teens were spreading illnesses.
In light of constant political spin on the island, Lovin Malta has launched a historic civic action to reform Malta’s broadcasting sector.
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