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MALTATODAY 31 October 2021

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12 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 31 OCTOBER 2021 NEWS THE energetic Karl Stagno Navar- ra incarnated Labour's propagan- da machine during the Muscat years: Labour's deployment of a seasoned and Nationalist-friendly voice who had been bred inside the Pietà stables during the party's 1990s heyday, transformed party propaganda into an art which he masters with gusto. Just as he had targeted Tony Zarb and the General Workers Union when they threatened a protest during a CHOGM meeting during the first Gonzi administration, he now fulminates against Repubbli- ka, a pet hate of Labour support- ers for their Nationalist pedigree and lack of legitimacy gained by a history of speaking truth to both PN-led and Labour-led adminis- tration. Between 2016 and 2019 Stagno Navarra was tasked with defend- ing people like Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, deflecting legit- imate questions on their offshore companies. No wonder that inside Labour's dark underbelly, many still believe that Panamagate was a conspiracy to destabilise their gov- ernment, and that Daphne Carua- na Galizia was the ultimate villain. So he could not resist doing the same thing this week, when he singled out a priest who stopped to talk to protestors, and a jour- nalist who was on duty reporting the event for their "presence" at the Repubblika sit-in, evoking the spectre of an imaginary PN- aligned 'establishment' composed of the PN's own MPs, the church, the media and NGOs. So instead of rebutting Re- pubblika's criticism by de- fending the independence of the police from any political intervention, including that of over-zealous activists, on the understanding that a wa- ter-tight case against Mizzi may require more time, La- bour ended up on the receiv- ing end of criticism on the way its own media singles out journalists as enemies. All this in a context where M.O.R. voters need to be reassured that Mizzi is still under the police radar and will not be allowed to get out scot-free. Awkward position for Miriam Dalli It is becoming harder to rec- oncile the new breed of lev- el-headed politicians Abela is cultivating with the extreme tribalism nourished on his own media. In fact, the uncalled-for shaming of journalist Tim Diacono ended up putting a government minister, Miri- am Dalli, in an awkward sit- uation; to the extent that she ignored Stagno Navarro's comments on the Repubbli- ka protest completely, and changed the topic to an unre- lated matter, thus refusing to be dragged in the quagmire, even if she was unwilling or unable to immediately disas- sociate herself from her own party's chief propagandist. Yet Abela decided to nip the controversy in the bud, con- demning Stagno Navarra's tirade against Diacono. How could he not? As the PM en- trusted with restoring Malta's credentials after the assassi- nation of Daphne Caruana Galizia, he could not condone an attack on a journalist who was not even participating in the protest but reporting about it. So did Miriam Dalli, the face of Abela's own squad of co-opted MPs who are to some extent detached from Is Abela the 'good cop' who condemned Stagno Navarra for his zeal in singling out a journalist for being on duty in a Repubblika protest or does he still need 'bad cops' to energise the troops? asks James Debono Good cop, bad cop in Labour's propaganda show Labour's most famous 'import': former Net TV anchorman Karl Stagno Navarra shifted allegiance after a near- decade away from the PN to become Labour's TV darling. He is seen here at Robert Abela's campaign rally in 2020, which he emceed, and with former PM Joseph Muscat

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