In 2004, access to a wide variety of television channels was still not readily available to most Maltese households. It was also something that you had to pay extra for and most of the Maltese, especially those of the older generation, were quite content to settle for local channels One (then called Super One), NET, TVM, and the smattering of Italian channels which every Italian I met was always surprised we could still tune into.

My grandmother would do her daily crossword puzzle while the television blared on in the background and it was on a lazy afternoon at her house that I discovered that I lived in not one but three different Maltas, if the television stations were to be believed.

It was the day of the local referendum regarding whether or not we should join the European Union and there was nothing to do but wait. So, to while away the time, I shuffled from one station to another hoping that one of them would have slightly more insight than the other about what was happening.

It’s been 17 years and had I not seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. You see, while ONE was saying that the Labour party’s ‘partnership’ model had most definitely won, NET television was saying the complete opposite. It was my first real brush with partisan television stations and as a 16-year-old that had been taught that the news always reported the truth, I was confused, befuddled and uneasy. Mine was the last generation where truth still mattered more than opinion and people didn’t tell you that what you had seen with your own eyes and heard with your ears was subjective or simply not true.

We must finally remove the shackles of what has kept us ignorant- Anna Marie Galea

Over the next few weeks, whenever I was at my grandmother’s I would find myself watching snippets of news from ONE and NET and I was continuously amazed at how stories would be reworked, ignored or exaggerated in favour of one party or another. Sometimes it wouldn’t even sound like the same story at all.

It was strange to watch, but even scarier was the realisation that most people were simply lapping everything up from one station or another exclusively. This basically meant that their world view was almost entirely shaped by whatever information they were presented with every evening. They were openly being brainwashed and most of them were so far gone down the rabbit hole that if you said anything different, they’d call you a liar. And why indeed wouldn’t they react this way when we have been taught to hold figures of authority and their mouthpieces to higher standards from a young age?

Simply put, partisan stations have no business being part of the framework of a democracy because they underpin the very foundation on which a true, fair, and just society is built; in a time of post-truth with national TV stations severely lacking in public service ethos and where politicians say that they haven’t sworn on live television and prime ministers say that they didn’t say things that they have said over and over again, facts are more important than ever before.

If we are to truly move forward then we must finally remove the shackles of what has kept us ignorant, incapable of critical thinking and enslaved to one party’s beliefs over another’s. It is only by demanding and supporting the objective truth that we can hold our parties and governments accountable for their actions and force them to maintain the standards of conduct and administration that we deserve. Only then can we truly be mature and possibly, free.

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