The Labour Party dissociated itself from its former general secretary Jason Micallef’s declaration that popular broadcaster Peppi Azzopardi should be removed from PBS once the PL is elected to government.

“Jason Micallef is not responsible for drafting Labour’s policies. What he said is his personal opinion and should be interpreted as just that,” PL spokesman Kurt Farrugia said.

“Nobody will be excluded a priori and there will be a level playing field for everyone to submit ideas and productions for the national broadcaster,” he said, adding that the PL believed in plurality and in the fair representation of civil society.

In an article on l-Orrizont last Friday, Mr Micallef, now the head of the Labour Party’s radio and TV station, said the management of PBS should ensure that Mr Azzopardi was removed from the national TV station, should Labour be elected to government.

“Let us no longer beat about the bush, and I will be the one who states it without any problem. Should there be a Labour government after the next general election, those entrusted with the management of PBS should ensure that Joe (Peppi) Azzopardi is removed from the national station.

“His direct and blatant political involvement with the PN makes him unsuitable for a presenter of a current affairs programme on the national TV station,” Mr Micallef said.

When contacted, Mr Azzopardi said he saw “no reason” why Xarabank should be axed from TVM.

“Xarabank has been the most popular programme in Malta since its launch 14 years ago. It generates revenue for PBS and has won every award from the Broadcasting Authority, the Institute of Journalists and the Malta TV Awards. In addition, the Broadcasting Authority has always given Xarabank a clean bill of health as far as impartiality and balance are concerned.

“Mr Micallef’s statement is plain and simply a threat intended to frighten us. But we will not play Mr Micallef’s game and will continue to do our job professionally as we have always done,” he said.

In the article, Mr Micallef hit out at Mr Azzopardi and Where’s Everybody partner Lou Bondi for their political involvement. He recalled how after the 2003 referendum and subsequent general election, the PL called for a boycott of Where’s Everybody.

However justified the PL’s reasons, the party’s decision was wrong, Mr Micallef said, and he had, as PL general secretary, worked to have it repealed. He said that Mr Azzopardi had, however, reverted to his pro-government actions in 2008.

Mr Farrugia added that the PL would ensure all broadcasting laws were respected.

“As things stand, neither the laws nor the basic rule of having balanced public broadcasting are being adhered to, and this is leading to the erosion of democracy in Malta.”

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