LETTERS | Sunday, 25 November 2007

An exercise in dishonesty

Your report “Gatt confirms Cristina’s muzzling” (18 November 2007) is an exercise in dishonesty.
The report comes a day after another newspaper, The Times, published a letter by the Editor at PBS, Sylvana Cristina, which your report refers to and selectively quotes from. It leaves out the opening half of Ms Cristina’s letter which for fairness’ sake must be reproduced here:
“For the record I would like to make it clear that as news manager and registered editor of PBS, I have always been left at liberty to exercise my editorial discretion. In the recent incident involving Bondiplus, the chairman of PBS, Joe Fenech Conti, made it very clear to me that he has faith in my judgement and that he would back any decision I took to the full.”
That statement on its own crushes your report’s thesis that some form of control is exercised on PBS and its Editor and that the news function of PBS is submitted to some form of muzzling, censorship or political interference of any degree.
What is especially significant is that, in case anyone read this letter in The Times before reading your report, you carried a caveat saying that unnamed “PBS sources said Cristina was made to send the letter to The Times in line with the minister’s declared policy of vetting and editing any public statement she makes”.
That statement is hurtful more to Ms Cristina than to anyone else. That anyone might suggest that Ms Cristina would write in the press that she had “always been left at liberty to exercise [her] editorial discretion” when this was not true at the end of some metaphorical gun-point, makes Ms Cristina out to be of a spineless character, which anyone knowing her will certainly confirm she is not.
For the record, and as was appropriate in the circumstances, Ms Cristina did not provide the Ministry with an advanced copy of her letter for vetting before sending it to The Times.
Though she may or may not bother to go through the trouble of insisting that she freely said that she has always been given editorial freedom to act, your newspaper has made a statement aimed intentionally at hurting her credibility.
It is not for governments to protect the integrity of journalists from the attacks of their colleagues belonging to organisations that proclaim themselves martyrs to journalistic freedom, as your correspondent is.
It is up to us, however, to respect Ms Cristina’s editorial freedom which we have done and which we will continue to do whatever your correspondent’s imagination might conjure.

Jesmond Saliba
Communications Co-ordinator to Minister

Ambush journalism at its worst

It would seem that Mr Jurgen Cassar (MaltaToday, 18 November) is not content with posting highly slanted videos on YouTube, and has taken to writing letters to the press as well.
Not surprisingly, he wrote in defence of another prime example of media manipulation – the “Bondiplus” programme which discussed Labour’s budget-related proposals.
During that program, Bondi’s bias and hostility towards the MLP representative were plain for all to see, and have finally been officially acknowledged.
The cherry on the cake came when, right at the very end of the program, Bondi presented a set of alleged costings of Labour’s proposals – prepared by government sources and “confirmed” by (not surprisingly) anonymous economists – and expected the Labour representative to make a coherent analyses “on the hoof”: something which would task even the most expert of economists.
This is ambush journalism of the worst kind, and proves, if any proof were needed, that all ethics have been thrown to the wind in the desperate efforts to help the PN to cling to power.
May I humbly suggest that Mr Cassar and Mr Bondi pool their abilities and post the famous “Black Mass” on YouTube?

Victor Laiviera

Red letter day for Zejtun

Saturday 17 November was a red letter day in the annals of the Zejtun Band following a most successful annual concert held at the Pandora Theatre, Zejtun.
The music selected for this concert presented a challenge for the band as well as its conductor, Raymond Zammit. The second movement from P.I. Tchailkovsky’s Fifth Symphony was much appreciated and contrasted sharply with the modern soundtrack music from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Popular musical composition featured in such pieces as Swing The Mood, Music and Can’t Afford to Lose, sung by Petra Zammit. The special arrangement for concert band by Raymond Zammit, of Mac Arthur Park brought to the fore the musical dedication of all the band. Above all the top spot was reserved for Rene Barbara’s solo on the trumpet in Defoort’s Spanish Trumpet, highly applauded by the audience and Ray Zammit’s new composition Nirien inspired by the momentous life of poet Karmenu Vassallo.
The numerous audience which filled the Pandora Theatre appreciated also Karen Camilleri’s rendering of Insellmulek Katrina composed by Carmelo Mangion in honour of Zejtun’s patron saint. The evening was compared by Charles Abela Mizzi.

Enrico Mifsud

Who said socialists were the baddies?

It is not usually my style to write to the newspapers to report the many shortcomings of the civil service, before I take them up with the relevant authorities and get the usual quip of “tell me heeee”, only to be ignored and shunned.
But, according to the Prime Minister’s secretariat, I am arrogant and a monopoliser of the truth! This is just because I tried to make them realise how the present administration is failing, and badly in my humble opinion.
Additionally, I am still waiting for them to fix an appointment with the Prime Minister. In comments sent to me by one of their staff, they see no point in my discussing the matter with Dr Gonzi – censorship at its worst, considering that we all thought it was only the socialists who were the baddies.
Go figure...

Jo Said
St Paul’s Bay

Sliema Traffic Plan/Qui-Si-Sana development

There has been much talk about the above projects recently. Please allow me some words of advise to Sliema and Qui Si Sana residents.
If you want these projects to be halted in their tracks, vote Labour. If, on the contrary, you want them to be carried out after the next election, vote Nationalists again.

Joseph Spiteri

Taking people for a ride

In a letter to small and medium sized businesses, circulated by the Ministry for Competitiveness, Parliamentary Secretary Edwin Vassallo wrote: “I have kept my promise to see the government close to the self employed and small businesses. This to keep the Government informed on what is actually going on and to be able to take the best decisions possible so that commerce can increase. Looking back I can say that we have attained our aim.”
It seems that Vassallo is not aware of the number of small businesses which are closing shop, mainly due to the illegal imports from nearby Sicily. Whilst local retailers have to pay VAT, Eco Tax, National Insurance and Income Tax – apart from their normal running expenses – these illegal imports are being sold directly from private homes or from the “Monti”, without any additional costs.
Where detergents are concerned, the products are mainly of inferior quality. Surprisingly, no checks are being made by the Laboratory Department.
A local manufacturer raised this complaint with the Deputy Prime Minister during one of his home visits and was surprised by the reply: “Mhux ahjar hekk?” (“Isn’t that better?”) Quote: “Halli il prodotti jkunu irhas!” (“So that products are cheaper!”)
When the importer pointed out that these were not paying VAT, tax or eco contributions, the reply was “I didn’t realise this”.
The GRTU has also been complaining about these imports, yet to date nothing has been done by the Government to ensure that all imports are accompanied by the proper invoice and that the importer is VAT registered.
What a farce!

D. Muscat

Nightmare on Windmill Street

The authorities, together with the Valletta Local Council, have done it yet again!
Why is it that every time some foreign personage visits Malta, Valletta is in a virtual state of siege. I have nothing against having the Queen drive up to Valletta, but is it really necessary to literally block most of Valletta, with some parts such as Hastings being practically closed to traffic? I did not know whether to cry or laugh at the sight of all the route buses use the Valletta ring road to exit Valletta. All this because the Queen was taken to visit the Upper Barrakka gardens for a short walkabout!
And whilst on the subject of traffic and parking in Valletta, I have repeatedly been confronted with the irresponsible behaviour of inconsiderate persons who literally imprison us indoors, blocking the entrance to our house. I have communicated with the Local Council about this on various occasions but to no avail, other than being directed to the police.
I plead with whoever is responsible ensures that more consideration is given to those who live in Valletta.

Paul Edgar Micallef

Healthcare standards

I am informed that at last a new “Department for Healthcare Services Standards” has been established to ensure standards throughout the health system – whether this be in the private or in the public sector.
Welcome news. I have been clamouring for this from the time of Health Minister Dr Moran! Now for the first time, even public (NHS) hospitals will be subject to the same checks on standards as private hospitals.
This is a step in the right direction, as State hospitals to date have been operating without a licence and are not subjected to the same intensive inspections as private hospitals.  
Needless to say the establishment of this new department does not eliminate the need of an independent Health Authority.
The role of the Health Authority should be regulatory in order to ensure standards throughout the health system – and as a regulator, the health authority must not be involved with the running of Government hospitals.
All Government hospitals should become autonomous and be classified as service providers. Only in this way will we eliminate the current two-tier system where Government hospitals operate without a licence and not being subjected to the same intensive inspections as private hospitals.  
There remains another lacuna, that of small minor clinics which – since they  do not provide a “listed” service – have been deemed not to require a licence.
In my view, even these clinics  should be licensed for the service they provide to patients – naturally after passing through the appropriate inspection. This should  rein in the cowboys.

Dr Frank Portelli
St Philip’s Hospital

Caravaggio – the DVD

We make reference to the letter that appeared on Sunday 18 November written by Mr Gilbert Micallef.
We would like to clarify and reaffirm that Rai Fiction’s production “Caravaggio – The Movie” was a true first in any commercial cinema around the world. This was confirmed by RAI Trade, whose vice-president personally attended the premiere in Malta on this special occasion.
The movie shall eventually be released in international cinemas, but only after RAI transmits the TV version of the movie in a weekly series in the near future.
The movie, in original high definition DVD format, was officially supplied to us by RAI Trade upon purchasing the rights to screen it in Malta. The format is the exact version that will be screened in any other cinema around the world once the movie is released. The overly negative connotations expressed by Mr Micallef relating to the quality of the movie are very subjective.
Renaissance Productions Ltd has consistently and successfully brought to the Maltese cultural panorama only masterful and unique attractions of the highest repute. We shall continue pursuing this avenue in our future events to the benefit of our esteemed clientele.

Anton Tabone,
Amabile Zammit,
Directors, Renaissance Productions Ltd.

Not only in Malta

How often do we hear the expression: because we Maltese, because in Malta; these things happen only in Malta…
And this solemn declaration is very often made to the approval of those taking part of the conversation.
But, you may ask, what are “these things that happen only in Malta? Shut your eyes and try to imagine anything evil, anything negative, anything horrible. Anything, as long as it comes from the devil himself: a lost file in hospital; or a cockroach in hospital; illegal dumping and littering, corruption and discrimination, escapes from detention camps, prisons, abandoned historical buildings, collapsing buildings, vandalism, cruelty to animals and indiscriminate hunting, long waiting lists in hospital and at the law courts… The list is simply endless.
But if you think that these things happen only in Malta, it means that you neither watch any TV nor do you read any foreign newspapers. Try to watch the news on Italian TV station: watch Studioaperto or Striscia la Notizia or Piazza Grande… try to read some English dailies and you’ll soon regret that you had ever imagined that “these things happen only in Malta”. These things happen all over the world. And how! In fact I should say that there are, yes, things that happen mostly, not only, in Malta, but these are certainly on the positive side of life: our generosity, for example. Our friendliness and our willingness to help anyone, whatever this problem; our ability to communicate with foreigners whatever their nationality and very often going out of our way to help them; our still very strong family ties, our sometimes exaggerated care we take of our children… No, I am not ashamed of being Maltese. On the contrary I feel flattered.
Together with MaltaToday I was given a concise manifest of the new political party Azzjoni Nazzjonali. It was written in English! How funny! How very funny!

Giov. DeMartino
Mosta MST 09

GO should go

So there you have it: the TECOM representative has informed the minority shareholders in GO that TECOM has no intention of adding to its shareholding in GO.
I cannot blame them, especially since under the stewardship of TECOM the share price of the company has gone down from over Lm2 to a paltry Lm1.37!
Pathetic. The Board of Directors should resign en masse and make way for fresh blood who would then, one hopes, restore the investing public’s faith in the company.
Ambrose J. Muscat

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