No one has the right to take life. Any life. Ours is a society that has ingrained values that see life as unassailable. Unfortunately, these values are being eroded as the egoistic rationale of a growing number in our society has relegated life to a lesser rank in our order of priorities.

To be consistent when saying that one believes in this statement, one must be clear about all forms of this abuse and one negates murder, capital punishment, euthanasia and abortion.

No one has the right to take life. Except to preserve life. Likewise in self-defence.

Life is much more than the breathing through our lungs and the beating of our hearts.

Life has a much broader meaning that transcends the physical and overlays the psyche – the totality of conscious and unconscious mind, soul and spirit.

Life is the innermost self, ego, true being, the persona, identity, personality, individuality, intellect. All the faculties a person needs to enjoy to be alive.

As Mother Theresa said: “Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is a beauty. Admire it. Life is a dream, realise it. Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfil it.

“Life is sorrow. Overcome it. Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure. dare it. Life is luck. make it. Life is too precious, do not destroy it. Life is life, fight for it.”

Destroy this and it is as much of a murder as if a person’s heart was pierced with a dagger. Poison pens do just that.

This concept was affirmed by Pope Francis when he addressed about 400 journalists in September 2016. He also defined poison pens as terrorists.

The life of a person unjustly defamed can be destroyed forever

He said: “I have often spoken of rumours as terrorism, of how you can kill a person with the tongue. If this is valid for the individual person, in the family or at work, so much more is it valid for journalists because their voice can reach everyone and this is a very powerful weapon.”

Pope Francis was also very clear that no one has any right without responsibility. This is the maxim of decent human behaviour.

He exhorts: “Criticism is legitimate, as well as the denunciation of evil, but this must always be done respecting the other, his life, his affections, because an article is replaced from one day to the other but the life of a person unjustly defamed can be destroyed forever.”

Journalism in Malta has strayed a good deal from the papal standard.

A poison pen is not a sporadic, individualistic initiative. It is usually an organised activity controlled and mani-pulated by a megalomaniac who knows that brainwashing the people through the media to demonise his adversaries or those whom he considers a threat to his ambitions is vital to achieve his aims.

Recognising this, Pope Francis, in the same address to journalists, said: “It is important to always reflect on the fact that, across history, dictatorships – of any orientation or colour – have always tried to not only take control of the media but also to impose new rules to the profession.”

This is what is happening in Malta.

John Dalli is a former Cabinet minister and European commissioner.

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