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MT 19 October 2014

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maltatoday, Sunday, 19 OctOber 2014 26 Letters Send your letters to: the editor, Maltatoday, Mediatoday Ltd. Vjal ir-rihan, San Gwann SGn 9016 | Fax: (356) 21 385075 e-mail: Letters to the editor should be concise. no pen names are accepted. The deafening silence surrounding the resignation of Michael Mallia as chairman of PBS by both the Ministry and the departing Chairman himself is of concern. It is serious because the resignation and the circumstances surrounding it has plunged the national broadcasting com- pany into chaos. The public must know why he resigned. To date the reason given by the ministry for his resignation is that he was running the organisation outside the policy guidelines set by the Government through the minis- try. The controversy revolves round the retention of the services of persons who after resigning had been granted a golden handshake by the company. These facts rightly left the Minister with no alternative but to ask for his resig- nation. In the name of fair play one awaits the resigning chairman's version of the facts. Disappointingly, he has opted for the no comment route. The earlier the lid is lifted by the usually loquacious resigning chairman the quicker the station will regain the peoples confidence. In all fairness, embarking on an overdue restructuring process was a bold initiative carrying inevitable risks. This is the first time that a minister responsible for broadcast- ing has taken the broadcasting bull by the horns. Previous ministers have been content to commission numerous reports only to be left to gather dust. It is no mean feat to streamline the organisation, to introduce flexible working practises and to reduce the workforce from one hundred and eighty to sixty five with early retirement schemes and the agreement of the union. However to hail the restructuring process as an unquali- fied success is an exaggeration. The fall out includes the resignation of the second chairman in fifteen months and a still Head of News vacancy. Now that the economic re- structuring is in motion, it needs to be followed by a reap- praisal and upgrading of editorial. Herein lies our misgiv- ings as we are far from clear what vision, beyond balancing of the books, the minister, chief executive, board or higher management have for the station. The station still seems in search of its ethos having the right vision is not unachiev- able. PBS is a national institution. It does not belong to the political parties or the media production houses. Neither does it belong to the government. It belongs to the people who have a right to receive quality, non -partisan and certainly not a DOI and/ or party driven agenda which regrettably they are presently subjected to. A successfully restructuring involves also meeting these benchmarks. The controversy round PBS goes far beyond policy and personality conflict issues. We fear that what is at stake is the very survival of public broadcasting in the country. In an ever increasing polarised society dominated by the mega-media machine of the two political parties, it is crucial that a public broadcasting system not only survives but thrives as a model of excellence. The newsroom should include the best of the journalistic crop. This service is an essential building block in our democracy. It must be the voice of all the people including those who do not belong to any of the three parties and all the minority groups within our society. The public service needs above everything else a vision, a public ethos There is a dire need to look at the big picture, what is a public broadcasting service all about? It certainly is not all about just balancing the books, essential as this is especially since for years the company has been a strain on public funds. Government handling of the restructuring process risks giving the perception that it is, albeit unwill- ingly, giving the kiss of death to the organisation. There is the growing fear that a weakened PBS will simply strenghten the political stations. The silence of the Labour party only further confirms our suspicions. Stronger political stations will simply lead to increased polarisation. This is a frightening prospect especially following our European membership where apart from Italy political ownership of media is anathema. The way forward involves the immediate appointment of a new Chairman. The profile of the person chosen must be that of an honest person who stands up for public broad- casting and has the guts to fend off political interference. A person who in the words of the former Director- General of the BBC 'cuts the crap and makes it happen' He must put the station first and not the parties. He must not be the choice of the party in Government neither the consen- sus choice of both parties choosing together. He must simply be the right man whose profile fits in with what is expected from a person holding one of the hottest seats in the land. He must be capable of defusing political situa- tions and resisting political bullying. He or she must most of all have an independent mind and a commitment to a national approach. The Board of directors must be equally independent-minded, with a Managing Director not a CEO at the helm with sufficient drive to be the mover and shaker of change. Needless to say this is a tall order, a gargantuan task. The people deserve nothing less. Wanted: Objective, lively and informative public broadcasting Editorial • October 24 2004 Malta's neutrality In what follows we discuss some points Michael Falzon (MaltaToday, October 5, 2014) raises in relation to an article of ours which appeared in The Times ('Our Neutrality Claus- es') and to the concept of neutrality in general. We shall however, refrain from discussing his diatribes against the editor of It-Torca (the latter can do so himself), his anachronistic as- sociation of belief in neutrality with 'anti-west cold war rhetoric' (an as- sociation that reminds one of similar diatribes by conservative and reac- tionary quarters in Western Europe in the 60's, 70's and 80's; for instance the labelling of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament CND as 'neutralists and communists'), his inane line as to us belonging to a 'secret group' (the fact that we do not hark for our 30 seconds of glory on the media, and hence that Mr Falzon does not know about our existence, does not mean that we are a 'secret group' – maybe some former politi- cians with whom he militated as well as other individuals that belong to his current lobby-group may better instruct him as to what a secret group or fraternity really is), his even more ridiculous implicit sugges- tion as to there being something more than an 'uncanny coincidence' between our article and the editorial of It-Torca and the inconsistency of having someone spitting bile on constitutional clauses which he himself voted. We shall focus on other matters. Falzon seems to equate neutral- ity as enshrined in our constitution and as understood by ourselves with 'being neutral when fac[ing] the eternal struggle between good and evil'; holding that to be neutral is to be 'passive'. This is clearly not the case. The Oxford English Dictionary gives (amongst others) the following meanings of the term 'neutral'; 'tak- ing neither side', 'not helping either of two belligerent States'. If our constitution upheld the first sense of the term, then neutrality would indeed entail passivity and not taking sides between different parties regardless of who is right or wrong. Yet, this is clearly not so in the case of our constitution. The manner in which the constitution understands the term 'neutrality' is along the second sense; implying that Malta ought not to take part in armed conflicts or join military alliances. It does not prohibit – indeed it enjoins – that Malta works for peace and justice in the region, something that may entail acknowledging the rights and wrongs of different par- ties. In the past Mr Mintoff and Dr de Marco did this in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict; recognising the rights of the victims while inviting those guilty of the injustice to mend their ways and to promote their se- curity and legitimate rights in a just and morally legitimate manner. As a matter of fact, we happen to believe that there are other ways apart from military force to achieve justice, promote rights and well- being and to engage with 'evil'; a belief that apparently does not cross Falzon's mind, but which puts us in the good company of figures like Jesus, Gandhi and Luther King. But even if the situation arises whereby circumstances require that to secure justice and well-being assistance be given to some military venture, the constitution already stipulates that in such cases aid to military ventures may indeed be provided, as long as the mission in question is under the aegis of the UN Security Council. Falzon should be aware of this given that he was one of those who voted for the article in question. Dumping neutrality to join a mili- tary alliance – with many assuming that this is by definition NATO, the thought of forming an alliance with other parties seems a priori inconceivable – will not mean that we take side with good against evil in some eternal manichean struggle which exists only in Falzon's head. Nor would it entail simply protection against a specific threat, namely the threat that the possible IS takeover of Libya would constitute. It would en- tail a long-term commitment to an alliance which, while not being the devil incarnate, enjoys no God-given inability to err. Lino Bugeja's article itself, the one to which we were reacting in our piece, recognises that the interven- tions by NATO in Iraq and Libya have been anything but felicitous. That IS has had links with major NATO partners, directly or indirect- ly (through allies of the US, Britain and France in the region), is known to anyone but the most obtuse. Falzon also seems to subscribe to the often repeated diatribe that the reference to two superpowers makes the neutrality clauses outdated since one of these superpowers no longer exists. He claims that we on the other hand, consider the wording of the constitution some 'sacred cow'. This caricature is to say the least misleading. We never claimed that the wording of the constitution is sacred. Our claim is that the disap- pearance of one superpower does not make the neutrality clauses in the constitution obsolete either in word or spirit. It does not make them obsolete in word because logically, what the constitution stipulates does not cease to apply with the disappear- ance of one superpower. When one has a clause formulated in terms of 'neither of ' (in this case neither of the superpowers) the implication is that the clause applies to one, to the other or to the two. If only one member of the targeted group remains in existence, the clause ap- plies to it nonetheless. It is as though I prohibit both Peter and Paul from entering my club. The prohibition does not cease to apply if one of the two parties dies. The disappearance of one super- power does not make the neutrality clauses obsolete in spirit because as we affirmed in our original article, our world is still a world of conflict between different powers, ideologies and economic blocks. The onus is on Falzon to prove otherwise. Michael Grech Gharghur Charles Miceli Naxxar In response to the article, 'A soul- searching exercise and backsliding', by John Azzopardi on October 12: Tens of millions of children die an- nually in agony either from water, sanitation, conflicts and illnesses before reaching adolescence. Imagine the anguish parents go through – mothers and fathers who pray relentlessly for their children, but their prayers eventually fall on deaf ears – thus the God Azzopardi refers to with such passion can either do nothing or otherwise he doesn't care, therefore he is either impotent or evil. But note the different yardstick used by devotees to exonerate God from these calamities. If someone gets good news or one's life turns to the better, then it is God's will, if it is devastating news or, as mentioned above, the death by the millions of innocent children, then God must have had a plan that our small minds cannot comprehend or that God is mysterious and who can understand God's reasoning. Mr Azzopardi was being radically selective when quoting astronomer Fred Hoyle. For one thing Hoyle is one of the less than one per cent of scientists who believe the fictitious theory of intelligent design. Creationists and religion devotees have from the beginning eagerly sought things that are hitherto un- explainable by science and attribute them to God. This means that as time goes by and as scientists are giving explanations to things which used to be mysterious to us some time ago, fewer and fewer "mira- cles" are being attributed to God, hence the term the God of gaps. Homo sapiens came into being between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago. Let us take the most conserva- tive number (100,000) and picture this. After waiting 98,000 years where occurrences such as natural disasters, epidemics and conflicts took place, for some reason God decided to send his only child to perform a number of miracles to the selected few (later he got fed up) and to forgive our sins by morbidly sacrificing his life on a cross. Is there any rational explanation for this? No there isn't, it is just written in the bible. I am also appalled but insofar not surprised by the statement where he said that he could never believe in God if it were not for the cross. This confirms, and I hate to break it to Mr Azzopardi, that Catholi- cism is not a religion that repudi- ates human sacrifice but rather a cult that condones it or even worse, celebrates it. While reading the local news this week I noticed that the issue of the teachings of religion in school is in the limelight. I firmly believe that all religions should only be taught in history classes and as a point of reference to our traditions. It is high time all religions are scrutinized like any other subject, issue or policy, thus obliterating all dogmas each religion dictates. To teach our children that there is a celestial being supervising them throughout their whole life and af- ter life and who cares what you do, who you sleep with and takes sides in conflicts is not only tiresome but morally reprehensible. The view that you only need one book to make reference to love, ethics and morality is unbearable. Sandro Zammit Tarxien The age of reason

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