A man who runs a popular meme group has claimed that a member of the Malta Police Force threatened him with police action unless he removed videos featuring a dancing police officer.
The two video clips, which first appeared on video-sharing app TikTok and have since been removed, both feature a woman in a police uniform dancing while seated at a desk.
They quickly made their way to WhatsApp and were shared widely on Monday evening.
As the evening progressed, the clips were used in jest to poke fun at the police response to a large gathering on the Floriana Granaries, where Floriana FC supporters gathered to celebrate being handed a Premier League title.
The party garnered widespread condemnation for breaching social distancing rules. Police only arrived to break up revellers after an hour, despite the police headquarters being a few hundred metres away.
A morning call
Neil Buhagiar, who moderates Facebook meme group Malta Pastizziposting, told Times of Malta that he received a call on Tuesday morning from a woman who identified herself as a police officer.
She told him to remove content featuring the dancing officer or face police action against the group.
Unless they got through my close friend group, I assumed it came from a police database.
“I’m used to people messaging me about the group but was a bit taken aback to be called about it,” Buhagiar, who is celebrating his 22nd birthday on Tuesday, said.
“The person told me if I didn't take the video down, action would be taken against the group, despite the fact that the person who posted the video is not a group moderator or part of the admin team.”
The group has over 24,000 members on Facebook.
Buagiar said he complied with the request and removed the videos because it felt legitimate, as he was contacted on a private mobile number which is not publicly available.
“I don’t put out my mobile number at all. A lot of people try to contact me because of the group and it would be inconvenient to have them call me over issues every time, so I don’t give it out.
"Unless they got through my close friend group, I assumed it came from a police database.”
“I’m annoyed mainly, I've got issues going to sleep, especially during lockdown,” Buhagiar said.
“They woke me up and I haven't been able to go back, which is frustrating considering it's my birthday and I just felt like relaxing a bit.”
On Tuesday night, the Malta Police Force said there had been no official approach from the police to anyone, except the officer herself, who was asked to remove the video.
The spokesperson said it was uploaded on Saturday May 23, some days before the Floriana mass gathering.
"Officially, no Officer from the Malta Police Force contacted people who have shared this video publicly on social media, or people who manage groups where the video has been shared, and ordered them to remove the video," the statement said.
"If it results that a Police Officer/s abused his/their position to order someone else to remove content which was not illegal or illegally obtained, the Malta Police Force will take the necessary action against said Officer."
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