Gather round, ladies and gentlemen. This is the tale of how one very obviously satirical headline from one very obviously satirical portal ended up with an official apology by Gift of Life, one of Malta’s most prominent anti-abortion Facebook groups with over 10,000 followers.
It all started last Tuesday, when cheeky and mostly irreverent Bis-Serjeta’ posted an article headlined: I will never get an abortion, declares George Vella.
Itself a nuanced dig at how most of the debates happening in Malta on the subject of abortion seem to be led – or be entirely held – by men, the article humorously echoed many’s worries that women are being shockingly under-represented in a topic that directly affects them.
Minutes after the Bis-Serjeta’ article appeared on Facebook, pro-choice advocacy group Doctors for Choice Malta shared the story on their own wall, with the (somehow necessary) disclaimer: “Bis-Serjeta’ is a satire outlet”.
But while this is where most stories would normally end, this saga was just about to kick off. And it didn’t take long for shit to really hit the fan.
By the end of the day, pro-life group Gift of Life shared a screenshot of the whole thing, slamming not just the pro-choice group, but the satirical page that posted the article in the first place.
“Desperate angry pro-abortion doctors share fake news, adding a disclaimer, to attack the president because he’s pro-life,” Gift of Life said in a post condemning the article and eventual share.
As last weekend came to a close, however, Bis-Serjeta’s very own Karl Stennienibarra made his way to Gift of Life’s comments section… threatening to sue the group (of course another super serious statement).
“As the managing editor of the most serious news source in Malta, I find your assertion that we are fake news to be grossly offensive and libelous. You’ll be hearing from our lawyers shortly,” Stennienibarra commented, finishing up with a hilarious, “I trust that you won’t abort this comment.”
What followed was a passive aggressive exchange of comments and legal threats… leading Gift of Life to demand proof that President Vella had actually said those words.
“Can you quote the source of his words please?” the page answered, to which Karl replied, “His mouth. His mouth said the words. Now where’s that apology?”
“I have Franco Debono on the phone as I write this,” Stennienibarra followed up. “Am I telling him to back down or not?”
Eventually, Gift of Life president Paul Vincenti himself joined the fray, demanding proof of the president’s words in exchange for an official apology. And as if the whole thing wasn’t already hilarious, it was going to get even better.
“Send us a statement confirming the above and we will add the correction,” Vincenti statement, and while Stennienibarra initially simply told him to enjoy his “last days un-sued”, what followed was glorious.
In a comments thread of the conversation’s screenshot posted by MaltaToday editor Matthew Vella himself, Karl Stennienibarra finally posted the proof; edited headlines of both MaltaToday and Times of Malta articles.
Most people instantly understood that the joke had been elevated to a new level… but not Gift of Life.
And just like that, the promised apology arrived.
“CORRECTION AND APOLOGY”, a repost of the initial Facebook status started.
“The managing directors of Bis-serjeta, has started that the President of Malta did in fact say what was reported in the post we shared below,” Gift of Life’s status read. “The managing director of ”Bis-Serjeta” stated that this was said by the President of Malta during a press conference at San Anton Palace on January 27. The managing director of this portal asked for an apology. ”where’s that apology” We asked the managing director of the portal to provide us with a statement to correct our post which, despite repeated requests for this, was not sent to us.”
“We retract our statement and apologise for wrongly stating that this was ”fake news” in light of the protest by the portal ”Bis-Serjeta’. It would seem that on further investigation and with information sent to us by various sources, similar reports were made in the Times Of Malta and other local newspapers.”
But there was one last nail in the coffin left.
“Thank you for the apology Paul Vincenti,” Karl Stennienibarra replied. “It’s much appreciated. Now all you need to do is apologise to all the pro-choice women who received threats of death and violence from your crowd”.
Bringing the whole thing to a full circle, Bis-Serjeta’ ended it all with one last article yesterday.
“Anti-abortion fundamentalists have overtaken racists as the most hateful group of people in Malta,” the article opens, placing pro-lifers just above racists, Labour trolls, Chelsea supporters, “gay conversion people”… and BMW owners.
Lovin Malta reached out to Karl Stennienibarra for a very serious comment on the very serious turn of events.
“Let this be a lesson to anyone who dares call us fake news,” Karl warned.
“This time we mercifully accepted the apology (although Mr Vincenti should probably apologise to pro-choice women who received death threats from the ‘pro-life’ crowd), but next time we won’t hesitate to unleash the legal might of Franco Debono onto people who sully the name of our glorious news organisation and its god-emperor, i.e. me.”