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NEWS | Sunday, 20 February 2008

BirdLife urges investigation into police report it filed last year

Matthew Vella

BirdLife Malta yesterday urged the Commissioner of Police to immediately respond to a police report it filed a year ago regarding the messages posted on the FKNK website forum as well as the content of FKNK media statements targeting BirdLife.
The conservation organisation said it had also sent a letter to the Commissioner of Police earlier this month asking for his immediate action on threats being posted on the FKNK website forum against members, staff and officials of BirdLife Malta and its conservation project sites.
Last Monday, three vehicles belonging to BirdLife volunteers were found ablaze in Buskett. Two of the torched cars belonged to BirdLife volunteers and council members - AFM colonel Emanuel Mallia and Natural History Museum curator John Borg - and the third, bearing a diplomatic number plate, belonged to an American, who started voluntary work a few months ago. The three volunteers were carrying out scientific ringing studies in Buskett. They arrived on site at about 5.45 a.m. and headed off to a nearby field to start their work. Fifteen minutes later, they heard a loud bang and returned to the scene to find their cars burning.
BirdLife’s first report to the Police Commissioner was sent on 15 February 2007, quoting various posts on the FKNK forum and alerting the Police to these statements which the conservation organisation believes to be in breach of national legislation as the responsibility of the messages posted on the FKNK website forum lies with the FKNK which is accountable for what is posted on the forum through its moderators.
“Ultimately, the fact that the FKNK allows such posts to be present on its forum violates the provisions relating to the Electronic Communications Act, the Criminal Code and the Press Act,” said Tolga Temuge, executive director of BirdLife Malta.
BirdLife said the Commissioner had not yet communicated with BirdLife as to what the investigations had yielded.
BirdLife warned that in view of the recent escalation of the malicious acts it was holding the Commissioner of Police responsible if no action would be forthcoming in this regard.  
The organisation also said the language used by FKNK’s administration in their press releases as well as by certain members on its website forum continued to spew venom against BirdLife, its staff, members, volunteers and projects.
One of the press statements issued by the FKNK on 7 July, 2006, was entitled “BirdLife will feel Hunters’ Wrath”, in which FKNK stated that “Birdlife and Co. will feel the full weight of the wrath of FKNK and Maltese Hunters and Trappers”, and “before anyone can abolish such traditions they would have to go over a lot of dead bodies.”
In a statement yesterday, Tolga Temuge said: “It is no wonder that some FKNK members continue to post the organisation’s forum with comments filled with rage and xenophobia, threatening varying degrees of violence and inciting hatred of anyone who so much ‘dares’ to disagree with their point of view.”
 
UK condemnation
Yesterday, the Royal Society Protection for Birds (RSPB), BirdLife Malta’s international UK partner, condemned the arson attack on the cars belonging to BirdLife volunteers as a “reckless and needless act” by petty-minded individuals.
Alistair Gammell, the RSPB’s international director, said: “Unfortunately, this cowardly act of vandalism towards BirdLife Malta is not the first, as previous acts have seen the mindless uprooting of trees at a BirdLife Malta nature reserve.
“Malta has been welcomed to the European Union and, even though some individuals may not like the Union’s bird protection laws, migrating birds belong to everyone in Europe and we know that BirdLife Malta will not bow to bullying tactics. We fully support the work of our partner that is working so valiantly to improve the environment for Malta and all of its inhabitants, 90 per cent of whom oppose illegal hunting.
“We hope that those guilty of criminal acts against our partner will be made to face justice.”
Last year, the RSPB sent a 114,000 strong petition to the Maltese government from RSPB members condemning the illegal hunting of birds which continues to bring shame on Malta.
The Police informed BirdLife that the incident was most probably a criminal act.

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Comments from the FKNK website forum

One of the frequent members of the FKNK website forum nicknamed ‘Barbier’ recently referred to the police when commenting on the birdwatchers who would take part in BirdLife’s spring watch camp planned for the coming April: “we need to be united so that if they approach us we join forces and you’ll see how the police will do nothing to us because they too have a family…”
 
A member nicknamed ‘breda_2007’ again referring to BirdLife’s spring watch camp’s volunteers posted: “And their cameras its better that they keep them away cause if they try to point one at me I’ll do like I do to clay pigeons.” And the next day: “There’s the plough in my room [at the field] it hasn’t been used in a while… it’s as big as a bulldozer…I think it will be happy to find something to chew on under its roll…”

A member nicknamed ‘Breda’ referred to the recent developments on spring hunting and called for a protest: “One in front of the reserves, and we’ll break everything!!!!”. Another one nicknamed birdflu curer replied: “breakage like they do in Europe since they want to be in line with Europe BREAKAGE AND DAMAGE, NO MERCY WITH THESE ****”

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mvella@mediatoday.com.mt



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