Valletta 2018 Artistic Director Mario Philip Azzopardi has apologised to a Maltese activist for calling her a bitch, admitting his insult was based on a quote falsely attributed to her that he had read on Facebook.
“I was wrong in calling Tina Urso a ‘bitch’. For a second I believed the post on Facebook, in which she was ‘quoted’ as saying she hated everything Maltese, Malta, the Prime minister and his family,” Azzopardi said. “I saw red and I called her a bitch. It turns out she never wrote that. I fell victim to fake news. Pathetic. I apologize. I do not agree with her but she has the absolute right to protest as she sees fit. My comments were directed at what I perceived to be a direct insult to my country, and although that is also within her right, mine was an impulsive reaction, borne out of a sense of loyalty and love of my place of birth. I was hurt. Seriously. Now I want to believe that Urso would never say such things. Hopefully she does what she does because she too loves her country, in her own way. I don’t agree with her and I believe that her protest has an agenda that goes beyond her aversion to the passport scheme.”
The fake quote went viral on social media
A post falsely quoting Tina Urso quickly went viral on Facebook after the activist took part in a London protest against Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Henley & Partners. People responded to the false quote by flooding Urso’s Facebook page with derogatory comments, including some of a sexual nature, and by spreading personal details of her including her address and ID card.
The online harassment got so bad that the Women’s Rights Foundation stepped in to urge the government and civil society to condemn it and the police to take the necessary action.