A former Education Ministry consultant who used a government PC to change the Wikipedia profile of Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt is Labour stalwart Anthony DeGiovanni, who has admitted to carrying out “legitimate editing” of the page.
Dr DeGiovanni, a former mayor of Fgura, insisted when contacted on Thursday that his contracts had not been terminated but he had resigned from his position and that this “had nothing to do with the Omtzigt issue”.
“The sole reason for my resignation was the breach of the Public Service Management Code Regulation regarding the use of internet for private use and has nothing to do with the Omtzigt issue.
"I had been using five computers for my work, four of my own and one belonging to the service. I also used my private mobile and car for work. I regret it and I think that I should have kept the private and the service equipment separate. Therefore, I terminated my contracts,” he said.
He said he informed the Education Ministry’s permanent secretary about the termination on Tuesday and this was accepted the following day.
What was edited?
On Wednesday, the Education Ministry issued a statement saying a consultant's contracts had been terminated after a "technical investigation" showed that they had used a ministry PC to edit Mr Omtzigt's Wikipedia page.
Wikipedia is a free online encyclopaedia which is maintained by volunteers and which is free to edit. Most entries can be edited by anyone, including unregistered users.
Mr Omtzigt is a Council of Europe parliamentary assembly rapporteur who has been staunchly critical of Malta's Labour government.
His Wikipedia page was edited in October of last year to include the sentence: "In 2017 Omtzigt was embroiled in a fake news affair on the MH17 Malaysian Airlines Crash where he paid for fake evidence in order to put the blame on Ukraine and exonerate Russia. He was asked to resign but refused."
The sentence cited an article in an English-language website named Dutch Review as its source.
The edit was removed the following month by a different anonymous user, citing "unfounded and harmful claim as well as irreputable source."
Asked whether he regretted making the amendment, Dr DeGiovanni replied: “Definitely not! At present, I have more time to continue to combat fake news. What I did was a perfectly legitimate editing of a Wikipedia profile which should not serve as a hagiography of the person concerned but to inform the public about anything to do with that person.
At present, I have more time to continue to combat fake news
"Describing a legitimate activity as not being criminal in my view shows lack of political maturity.”
Dr DeGiovanni insisted that there was no “manipulation” as Nationalist MP Claudette Buttigieg claimed in her Parliamentary Question. “Parliamentary Questions should not contain assertions or conclusions, especially if you ask
for investigations! In my view the Speaker and the Commissioner of
Standards should look into this.
Standards are not only there for small fry,” he said.
“I did not delete anything from the Omtzigt page, nor did I distort the sense of any statement there. I simply added a factual event in Dr Omtzigt’s career for the information of the reader.
"To date, Dr Omtzigt has never negated what I wrote is incorrect and I am still waiting for him to do so. Instead, it was spun that I alleged that he contributed money to Russia, which is evidently another
example of fake news."
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