WATCH: Former Parliamentary Secretary Tells Journalists 'To Be Responsible For Their Writing'
She warned against the "abuse" of freedom of expression
Dr. Deborah Schembri, a Maltese advocate, legal consultant and the former Parliamentary Secretary, was on One TV's Pjazza last night talking about this week's tragic events which saw journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia being assassinated by a car bomb outside her Bidnija home.
"We need to be careful when we use the spoken and written word," Schembri said. "There is a certain point which we should not cross. We shouldn't hurt people for no reason".
"If we do this," Schembri said, "this is not a use of our freedom, it's an abuse. And there will be people who get hurt and irritated".
"If there isn't adequate punishment for the people who abuse of this freedom in the rule of law, there will be people who feel like they need to take the law into their own hands," she concluded.
Schembri said she was stating all of this "because there are journalists and people who write out there, who need to be responsible for their writing".
Former Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil tweeted a video clip of Schembri's statements last night. "The chilling message is clear: shut up, or else," Busuttil said. "To say that this is insensitive and irresponsible is an understatement".
In a blog entry posted last night, Manuel Delia said, "Deborah Schembri believes, nay, argues loudly from TV, that I should risk punishment for criticising her for abusing the power lent to her by the people, is just no longer acceptable. Go. Now. The lot of you. We want our country back."
Current Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli, who was a journalist herself for two whole decades, put up a Facebook status this morning disagreeing with - and disassociating herself from - Schembri's comments. While Farrugia Portelli didn't mention Schembri by name, words like, "I cannot accept the argument that somebody could suggest that a journalist should be castigated if he oversteps the line," rang as loud and clear replies.
The former parliamentary secretary lost her seat in the last election in June.
Two weeks ago, however, it was revealed that she was providing legal services to the Executive Council of the Planning Authority, and was also given the role of Data Protection Officer. For her services to the PA Dr Schembri is being paid a retainer of €42,000 a year (excluding VAT).
Dr. Schembri has also been appointed to the board of Malta Enterprise by Economy Minister Chris Cardona.
She was also chosen to be on LEAD, a team of Labour 'mentors' to help women to enter politics, as chosen by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Lovin Malta reached out to Dr. Schembri for a statement on last night's appearance on Pjazza. This is her reply:
"I have said, amply clearly, that I strongly condemn the barbarous killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia. I was shocked to the core, and still am because I believe that nothing ever justifies the killing of another human being. And that is 'nothing' without exception.
Yesterday’s comments should not be extrapolated as a message that it is good, or right, for people to take the law into their own hands if they feel aggrieved. It’s undoubedtly and unconditionally wrong. If, in any way, any one received a different interpretation, I apologize and seek to clarify. Even though I will stay away from partisan spin which aims only at scoring political points. This delicate moment requires maturity.
I am deeply angered at Monday’s grave occurance because, as can be witnessed through my active campaigning over the years, I believe in Malta and I am convinced that the country is much better than that. Precisely why, in one of my many comments during a live television programme, I mentioned the need to keep striving for a responsable and balanced society.
The rule of law is above all. Abolustely everyone has the right to write and say whatever they want. And the law clearly provides for cases when the fundamental right of freedom of expression is abused. Hence those who feel wronged are entitled to protection by the courts and no other remedy. My genuine preoccupation actually arises from the fact that last Monday a criminal, or group of criminals, have in fact opted for other remedies. Tragic ones. Somebody has decided to take the law into their own hands.
The wrongdoing here is not of the journalist, but of the brutal person/s whose acts go against any dignity or civilisation. This is where I might have been misinterpreted by some or did not explain myself well. My profound emotion comes from the fact that Daphne Caruana Galizia herself had admitted receiving threats simply because she wrote allegations about the Leader of Opposition.
I will not get into reports of her request to do without the protection of Police, but the fact remains that there are such criminals out there. In each and every society around the world. There are people who see no rhyme or reason, people who think they can be judge, jury and executioner. Hence my cry for responsibility from all. Because this murder is one too many.
I too just want justice done. Sooner rather than later."