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MALTATODAY 26 September 2021

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maltatoday | SUNDAY • 26 SEPTEMBER 2021 COMMENT What are we skinning? The latest spat between Delia and Muscat. No, not that pair, the other one. Why are we skinning it? Because the turn of events is both comical and disconcerting in equal measure, and how you process it will depend on both your sense of humour and the way you experience both the macro and the micro-political bickering of the country. But what's all this about, then? Delia and Muscat are both politically loaded and fairly common surnames… Fair. So, earlier this week, blogger and civil society activist Manuel Delia announced that he will be leaving Malta for six months due to safety concerns and the threat of their intensification as an election is apparently in the offing. But journalist and founder of news outlet The Shift News Caroline Muscat claimed Delia doth protest too much, revealing to her readers that far from opting to spontaneously flee the country on his own steam, his sojourn would be funded by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECMPF). Was this true? Delia himself confirmed it was on the same day, yes. So he's effectively dressing up a research trip as an emergency escape? If we are to put both Muscat and Delia's versions side by side, the truth - as is often the case - ends up being something in between. How so? Well, while Delia did confirm that he will be availing himself of the ECMPF scheme, he specified that the threat of persecution was what underlies the Centre's decision to grant him this de facto temporary asylum. So both Manuel Delia and Caroline Muscat have a point? In a sense, yes. And it's up to us to decide which version to cleave to. Isn't that fun? But what are the implications of each choice? If we choose to go with Delia's version, we choose to believe that the threats to himself and his family are legitimate. That his activism - both in writing and on the ground - was enough to put him in the crosshairs of some nasty political-partisan elements from both sides of the divide, as well as Yorgen Fenech and any supporters he may have outside of prison. And if we're to go with Caroline Muscat? This is the more comforting option. Not only does it permit us to point and laugh at Delia by casting him as an attention-seeking diva; it will also feed a sense of 'objectivity'... Objectivity? Thing is, the real wrinkle of this narrative – the juicy twist at the centre of the story - is that The Shift News – and by implication, its founder Caroline Muscat herself - is equally associated with the civil society movement which arose following the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Simply put, Muscat and Delia are otherwise perceived to be fully 'on the same side', especially by ardent Labourites. So you're saying this is a bid by Muscat to gain objectivity-points by ripping into 'one of her own'? It's a possibility. Or it could hint at fractures within 'the movement' itself. With Delia being a key aspect of this fracture? That would not be surprising - truth be told, Delia has always been a problematic figure for this wide-ranging 'movement'. Why? Being formerly associated with the ever-controversial figure of Austin Gatt in the past is a blemish he will never quite be able to wash off if he hopes to fully cast himself as a bona fide anti-corruption campaigner. Also, showboating is a bad look for anyone undergoing such activism, and Delia was certainly never shy of the spotlight. So it's really up to us to decide who to believe? Yes. Use this call to responsibility wisely. You'll be one of the few, I'm sure. Do say: "Whichever version of events we choose to believe, the fact remains that this bickering reveals a sad state of affairs, and is posited as the perfect distraction while the true 'evildoers' continue to run amok." Don't say: "Six months away during election time is pretty much my mental health routine. I recommend it to everyone. More refreshing than a walk through the woods - of which we'll have none after this election is through, I'm sure." Talking about domestic violence. Again JOSANNE CASSAR PAGE 6 The Skinny Malta, shrunk down RAPHAEL VASSALLO If you can't handle the heat… don't turn it up to maximum PAGES 10 & 11 MICHAEL FALZON A roadmap gone awry PAGE 7 No 106 – Delia vs Muscat, Round Two SAVIOUR BALZAN Journalists who turn themselves into the story PAGE 5 EDITORIAL Is growth without taxation possible? PAGE 2 The use of social media while travelling is not new, but in this case the smiling, happy photos and videos of the couple during their road trip also provide a stark, chilling contrast with what was to follow

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