Updated 5pm with Zahra's comment

The entertainment industry has criticised Inclusion Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli for her comments on PN candidate Julie Zahra's Eurovision past.

The pair were taking part in a debate on TVM news show XTRA on Monday evening.

Zahra, who represented Malta in the 2004 contest, claimed Labour had not delivered on party proposals and criticised the party for not publishing its manifesto. 

“You know how many Nationalists told me they will be voting for the Labour party," Farrugia Portelli hit back. "We are not singing on a stage here, we are speaking about the facts.”

Julia Farrugia Porelli, right, and Julie Zahra, clash during the programme. Video: TVM/Xtra

Zahra accused her of trying to "ridicule" artists and said she would not bring up Farrugia Portelli's career as a journalist.

The Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association (MEIA) said Farrugia Portelli's comments were an attempt to undermine the artist's profession.

"Being a woman, a singer, and active in politics is not a disgrace. We need more artists who make their voices heard and less politicians who talk about the art profession with disrespect," the association said.

"Ironically in times of a pandemic, it is easier to be a politician on stage than to be an artist doing your work."

PN leader Bernard Grech also expressed his disappointment at Farrugia Portelli.

“It’s 2022, and it is disappointing and shameful to see Julia Farrugia Portelli trying to ridicule our candidate Julie Zahra simply because she is a singer. Does she only see her as a singer, not for her other qualities?” Grech asked.

He made the comments during a PN Women’s Day programme at the Xara Lodge in Rabat and said the reflect the Labour party's attitude.

“They ridicule, whilst we are proud of your talents," he said. 

And in a Facebook post, Zahra asked whether the PL considered artists who take to the musical stage as inferior.

"It's no wonder that artists' requests during the pandemic were totally ignored. Now we know they're treated as second-class citizens... I was proud to take to the stage to sing some weeks ago to foster unity among the Maltese. This is the mechanism I'd like to see in action in my country."


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