The only security of all is in a free press, the third US president, Thomas Jefferson, had said. Most would agree with him.

Others, though, appear to be more inclined to share the views expressed by Adolf Hitler in his Mein Kampf: “It is the press, above all, which wages a positively fanatical and slanderous struggle, tearing down everything which can be regarded as a support of national independence, cultural elevation and the economic independence of the nation.”

The Labour Party has almost never seen eye to eye with The Sunday Times of Malta and the Times of Malta and the Labour government is evidently hell-bent to bleed both English-speaking newspapers to death, including by shrinking its advertising spend even though statistics continue to show both papers are by far the most widely read.

One of the accusations Labour has always levelled at the Times of Malta is that it is an ally of the Nationalist Party. With allies like the PN, who needs enemies?

The PN’s weekly, Il-Mument, on Sunday launched a full-page frontal attack on Allied Newspapers Ltd and its editorial team.

The article recalls that both the Times of Malta and The Sunday Times of Malta used to attack Lawrence Gonzi’s government “unscrupulously”. The Gonzi administration, it added, used to be accused of being divided and riddled with internal strife, adding both newspapers are at it again.

Clearly, for the PN, these newspapers can level any sort of criticism at Labour but hands off the party in Opposition.

That is not in the style of these newspapers, also thanks to the clear separation between the commercial and editorial sides. Some editorial decisions impinge on the business aspect and the company suffers commercially as a result. Still, the directors and senior management continue to endorse the editors’ right to make their own decisions.

The PN fails to understand a private company is one thing and a political party is another and makes no difference between the independent media and propaganda arms

Not so the PN. Yesterday’s attack can only be attributed to recent reports by these newspapers exposing the close relations between the party and business.

Evidently, the PN was not happy that a meeting between two of its MPs and a senior private company executive embroiled in the controversial 17 Black affair was exposed. The PN or, rather, certain elements within, got hotter under the collar when a journalist, after discussions with and on the direction of his editors, sent follow-up questions after this newspaper got wind of possible ‘regular’ meetings between a senior party official and the same top executive.

Il-Mument expects the journalist who submitted the questions to divulge details of his work, including who he meets. The PN fails to understand a private company is one thing and a political party is another and makes no difference between the independent media and propaganda arms.

This is the PN’s time of reckoning. Those within, especially MPs and top officials, who disagree must stand up to be counted. The people they represent have a right to know where they stand through a formal public declaration.

The Democratic Party, whose two MPs sit with Nationalist deputies on the Opposition benches, must also unequivocally show on which side they are.

The PN may decide to commit political hara-kiri but it cannot be allowed to attack the free press, a prime ingredient in a democracy.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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