There wasn’t much outrage about the media when everybody reported that Melvin Theuma made an attempt on his life.
Everybody understood there was overriding public interest in knowing that a State Witness tried to kill himself a day before testifying.
Nobody questioned the media when we reported that Yorgen Fenech, who is accused of ordering the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, was hospitalised with chest pain. It’s a good thing we did report it because a big story emerged from it – that’s when he was given the famous ‘frame up’ letter.
When rumours were circling that Chris Cardona had been hospitalised with an overdose, there was some outrage at the media, but only because we did not report it.
Lovin Malta had reached out to Cardona and he had denied it, like he did again when Theuma made these overdose claims in court. This time we reported it. Nobody criticised us.
Most media did not report that Joseph Muscat fainted while delivering a speech two days before Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed. Maybe we should have.
Today we reported that our Education Minister, who the government said was hospitalised yesterday, was admitted because of an overdose of prescription medication.
The criticism has been overwhelming. It came from all sides.
It included many politicians, past and present, many of whom broke what was otherwise an eerie silence from them in the past few days.
There were also many mental health activists and health workers who understandably felt uncomfortable about the reporting of a potential suicide attempt in the first place, because of what that can trigger.
Similarly, there were legal minds questioning the potential data/privacy implications surrounding medical information reaching the public.
And there were people who were unsure but definitely influenced by all of the outrage and anger they were seeing.
Here’s what I think.
First of all, I take full responsibility for the article because I firmly believed it should have been published.
Secondly, I agree with some of the criticism. The photo of the article did not need to have Justyne Caruana’s ex-husband on the cover photo. It was changed. And the article did require a disclaimer that reminds readers who are going through a tough time that help is always available with support lines like 179. This was added.
However, I still firmly believe we did the right thing to publish.
And that’s because this was not a case of a private individual being taken to hospital in a vacuum.
This was a case of the Education Minister suffering an overdose in a very specific context, even if that context is complicated and wide-ranging.
The incident happened on the same day that two of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s killers requested a presidential pardon to reveal criminal behaviour by a sitting minister. That makes three killers in total currently asking for a pardon to accuse a sitting minister of a serious crime.
Justyne Caruana is a sitting minister. Like all other sitting ministers, she has not yet commented on these accusations but she is scheduled to be involved in the decision on whether these pardons are granted.
It must also be said that Caruana had been forced to resign because of her now ex-husband’s close ties with Yorgen Fenech. Her ex-husband Silvio Valletta is a former policeman who is likely to face criminal charges at some point for leaking information to criminals.
Caruana left Valletta after the allegations surfaced. Prime Minister Robert Abela felt that was enough to merit her being brought into Cabinet. It may have been. That is up to him to decide. However, considering everything we are learning about the far-reaching tentacles of organised crime in Malta, it may have been better to leave any suspicions out of Cabinet as much as possible.
Caruana’s hospitalisation also occurred on the same day that a Standards Commissioner investigation was launched into allegations that Caruana gave her footballer friend a job of €5,000 per month. Caruana has not yet commented publicly about these accusations but as someone who is paid by the taxpayer and trusted with the proper managing of public finances, she probably should.
Most importantly, however, Justyne Caruana was hospitalised at a time when teachers, students, parents and schools are facing enormous difficulties due to the Covid restrictions.
What they need right now is an Education Minister who is fully focused on taking the right decisions in their interests.
Of course, not everything rests with the minister. And hospitalisation, even as a result of mental breakdown, can happen to anybody. It does not necessarily make you unfit for your role.
However, what happened yesterday does call the person’s fitness for office into question.
Regardless of what Caruana and Abela decide – whether she should stay on or step down from politics – it’s important for the public to be aware of the facts.
There are probably more facts that we do not know. Maybe they are too personal or peripheral for us to know.
But it is a fact that Caruana was hospitalised because of an overdose of prescription medication.
And in a fast-paced news environment like Malta’s is right now, it’s our duty as journalists to keep readers abreast of what is happening, as it happens.
Even just to be able to help you distinguish facts from the fiction that often invades our WhatsApp chats.
We welcome your feedback and criticism and we remain dedicated to giving you the most comprehensive coverage of the tumultuous events happening in our country right now.
The time now is for accountability and transparency, not for omerta and media-bashing.
Facebook outrage will not deter us.
At most, it will make us better.
Naturally, we wish Justyne Caruana a quick and full recovery.