This article first appeared in Malta Today
Well I guess it depends on whose ‘side’ you’re on.
But for those of us who did not take sides on the Egrant story, but preferred to use caution instead, this has been a vindication of sorts. There is a lot to be said for holding back, reserving judgement and not jumping on any old bandwagon just because someone said so, whom we were supposed to take at their word because….well, just because. There were several of us in the media who read everything carefully, weighed what was fact and what was mere speculation, noticing all the loose ends and the things which did not add up and simply refused to be swept away by the hysteria which gripped the nation in April 2017. All this, despite the extreme pressure to conform and parrot what everyone else was saying.
We did this because, thankfully, there are still some of us who work in the field of journalism or who are political commentators who adhere to the belief that a news story needs to be backed by solid facts and confirmed and verified by at least two sources. In the film Shock and Awe based on the true story of how journalists from the Knight Ridder news media company uncovered the lies by the Bush administration that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction (as a pretext to invade Iraq), the editor repeatedly sends his journalists back to work every time they come to him with a lead: “do you have an official source willing to go on the record, how many sources? I want at least three!”
Yes folks, because that is what real investigative journalism is; it can be tedious, time-consuming and demands a lot of fact-checking. Finding several reliable, trustworthy sources to corroborate a story is the underlying principle of any form of reporting and yet, astoundingly enough, this tenet was kicked to the kerb countless times, to the detriment not only of this profession but also to the detriment of the public who rely on the media to tell them the truth – and who have now understandably lost all trust in everything and everyone.
However, it is unfair to put everyone in the same basket and dismiss the entire Maltese media landscape with a sweep of the hand, precisely because not everyone bought into what has now been officially confirmed to be one big fat lie. It may sound petty to say ‘we told you so’, but yes, some of us did just that when we asked for proof, even though we were ridiculed and insulted and called all sorts of names in the process. Then there were the usual puerile attempts to smear our credibility and reputation, claiming we were in the pocket of the Labour Party, just because we dared to question the veracity of this grave allegation which led to Muscat calling an early election.
But old habits die hard and even though the truth is out after an exhaustive inquiry by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, the sheer extent of denial by some on my newsfeed since Sunday when the conclusions were made public, beggar belief.
Of course, a part of me can understand this reaction. It is not nice to realise one has been thoroughly duped and to admit that a blind belief one has clung to for all these months has proven to be a conspiracy, replete with forged documents and witnesses who were supposed to be on the same side but who contradicted each other during their testimony. That is the clincher right there, for if you are telling the truth you are consistent, you do not fudge facts, you do not change your story, whereas if you are lying you tend to get entangled in your own web of lies and are eventually caught out.
There are some who are still in a state of shock that this could possibly have been a deliberate fabrication intended to bring down a Government by the most underhanded means possible. But I suppose the mind sometimes refuses to accept reality because otherwise you will start to question everything you have believed up to now. It’s rather like when you are shown proof that your spouse has been cheating on you and you start doubting your own ability to ascertain truth from fiction, which can seriously disturb your peace of mind. So you find it easier to shut everything out and refuse to believe what is staring you in the face.
Right now, the ones who refuse to believe the inquiry’s findings are casting doubt on the integrity of the Magistrate (who up until now was trusted even by Simon Busuttil himself) and on the evidence that Egrant was a lie (which they insist on seeing for themselves even though last year they believed everything with no concrete evidence at all). Not content with the 50-page findings (even though many clearly have not read them probably because they have not been translated into English) they are now clamouring for the full 1000 page report. I find this highly amusing considering many people do not even have the patience to read a 1000 word article, but simply read a headline or the first sentence and jump to conclusions based on that instead. Jaħsara, if Magistrate Bugeja only knew how many homegrown experts he had at his fingertips on FB, he could have saved the taxpayers piles of money and wrapped the whole thing up in two weeks’ flat.
The only consolation is that the circle of people who are hysterically grasping at straws to discredit the inquiry is shrinking by the minute. Those who kept an open mind are perfectly capable of handling the truth.