The problem is not Bedingfield’s blog, but his role and the content

Published: June 23, 2017 at 8:42am

Journalists have been after Glenn Bedingfield to find out whether he will continue running his blog now that he has been elected to parliament in last Tuesday’s casual election, on a seat vacated by Helena Dalli (no jokes, please). He says he will.

There are times when the inability of the press to separate the issues really bothers me, and this is one of them. It is not the blog which is the problem, but the content. Everybody is free to write a blog if they want to, but when you’re working for the Prime Minister, the content becomes an issue.

At that level, you are working for the government (for all citizens) and not for the Labour Party (for Labour Party supporters and the party machine), so you do not write a blog which, instead of explaining government initiatives and government policies and your own views of them in a sober tone, instead insults and denigrates critics of the government and journalists who are persona non grata to the regime. Nor do you encourage supporters of the political party for which you no longer work officially to snap photos of journalists who are hated by your government employers, as they go about their daily business, and upload them for public view as a form of harassment.

This is completely unacceptable.

What is even worse is that the bulk of this work was done in office hours, when Mr Bedingfield was meant to be coordinating parliamentary questions as they came in, for responses by various ministries and government departments. But there are thousands of parliamentary questions left unanswered as he attended to his blog-posts and his personal electoral initiatives.

As protests about the aggressiveness and unsavoury nature of his government aide’s blog mounted over the past year, the Prime Minister said that he doesn’t interfere in what his aide does. He framed this as evidence of his liberal approach to freedom of expression (this while plotting for the extermination in various ways of journalists who stand up to him, like me).

Again, the press failed to separate the issues. They shouldn’t have started off from the point where Mr Bedingfield, the Prime Minister’s aide, writes a nasty blog about ‘enemies of the state’ and why isn’t the Prime Minister controlling him. They should have started off from the premiss that it was the Prime Minister who wanted his aide to write that blog in the first place. Because let’s face it, that should be obvious: Glenn Bedingfield works for Joseph Muscat.

The Prime Minister now says that he has asked his aide to “tone it down”. Well, if he has asked him to tone it down now, then it begs the question as to why he didn’t ask him to tone it down before now. For your answer to this, see the paragraph immediately before this one.

Why is it imperative that he tones it down now that he is a member of parliament when it wasn’t imperative that he tones it down as an aide to the Prime Minister? It should have been the other way round. A member of parliament is by definition partisan and can denigrate politicians and journalists he doesn’t like or who his political party considers enemies. It doesn’t look good, true, but contextually, it is entirely permissible.

On the other hand, an aide to the Prime Minister cannot and should not be partisan or insulting to citizens, whoever they may be.

And the real question the press should be asking, anyway, is not whether Mr Bedingfield is going to carry on writing his blog, but whether he is going to carry on receiving a salary and perks as an aide to the Prime Minister. A member of parliament who works as a ‘person of trust’ in the Office of the Prime Minister? I don’t think so. But obviously, it’s exactly what’s going to happen.