Bernard Grech on Sunday called for “journalists and editors with a backbone” and “truly independent media”, lambasting Robert Abela for "meddling" with the judiciary’s affairs.

The PN leader was addressing party supporters in Mqabba, where he expressed worry over comments by the prime minister last week that he had had a chat with a magistrate who told him that even when the lower courts imposed tough sentences, they were inevitably reduced on appeal, citing previous judgments. 

The rule of law group Repubblika, the Chamber of Advocates and ADPD have slammed the conversation, while the PN called on Abela to apologise.

On Sunday, Grech said it was worrisome that Abela not only had the conversation but also did not acknowledge his mistake and apologise, following criticism by civil society.

Abela, the PN leader said, did not understand the separation of power in a democratic country, where the executive and the judiciary remained distinct and autonomous.

He added that if Abela was trying to meddle with, and control the judiciary, which, in itself, had constitutional guarantees, imagine what he was doing where such guarantees did not exist, such as with journalists, editors and the media.

“That is why we need to continue to have journalists and editors with a backbone, and a truly independent media that would not suffer the same fate as the national broadcaster,” he said, adding that the Opposition’s message was often left out of prime news coverage.

'Legislation without continuous enforcement is useless' 

In his address, Grech also question Abela's unwillingness to hold a public inquiry into the death of Jean Paul Sofia, the 20-year-old who died in a construction collapse last December 

Abela was evasive on Wednesday when asked by PN MP Jerome Caruana Cilia whether a public inquiry will be appointed to investigate the tragic death.  

His mother Isabelle Bonnici subsequently demanded a meeting with Abela.

"Why don't you want a public inquiry that would shed light on the truth and stop such tragic deaths? Do the lives of a young man, a mother who died in her own home, the elderly and workers have no value for you," Grech asked Abela at the Sunday PN meeting. 

His party, he said, will continue pushing for a just country.

Continuous law enforcement needed

Legislation without continuous enforcement, he said, was useless.

Increasing fines, and therefore, deterrents, was well and good, but it was not enough. Enforcement, he said should be continuous, and not halted a year before the general elections.

Grech added that traffic accidents were not only the result of people driving a vehicle while on the phone, but also the result of poor investment in roads and infrastructure.  

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