Media reactions to the PM’s Chief of staff Keith Schembri’s backtrack from court procedures he himself instituted have been understandably harsh. “Keith Schembri withdraws case and avoids cross-examination” lead The Times front page giving a factual resumé of events as they unfolded at court yesterday. Jacob Borg, a Times of Malta journalist who worked with The Daphne Project to uncover the link between business 17 Black and the as yet unknown owner of Macbridge followed up the lead story with a backgrounder entitled “How Schembri avoided his day in court on 17 Black”
The editorial of The Times, entitled “Justice is no convenience store”. Going over the events which led to Monday’s dénouement, The Times said that “The libel suit was instituted over three years ago and, along the way, it became increasingly obvious that Mr Schembri was desperately trying to avoid being questioned by Dr Busuttil’s lawyers in open court”. The Times said that Silence spoke much louder than words. “Mr Schembri brazenly said he had legal advice not to answer any questions linked to ongoing inquiries. If, as he himself says, Mr Schembri has no problem in answering questions put by inquiring magistrates why should he refuse to do the same in an open court? Is it the magistrate that makes the difference? The fact that an inquiry is confidential? Or that lawyers representing a third party can ask questions in a libel suit?” asked The Times in its editorial. “As long as Mr Schembri remains in Castille, the shadow of the possibility, by his own admission, of him being guilty of wrongdoing will also be cast on the Prime Minister and his government. The Prime Minister must act, fast. But we won’t be holding our breath” concluded The Times.
The Malta Independent led the front page with “Keith Schembri withdraws defamation suit to avoid being questioned”. The leading story is backed by the multitude of reactions which were issued following Schembri’s decision, notably that by the leader of the opposition Adrian Delia who said that Schembri should either resign or be sacked. The Malta Independent also carried the story where the Prime Minister said that he would not be sacking Schembri. Clearly, The Malta Independent’s editorial disagreed with the PM’s decision: “Keith Schembri must go” was the editorial headline. This was in fact, a repetition of a headline of an editorial by the same paper in May 2016 which was entitled “Keith Schembri must go, now”. In the current editorial, The Malta Independent echoed the words it wrote 3 years ago, stressing “The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Keith Schembri must go. There is no longer any leeway to beat around the bush” opened the editorial, tritely. A chief of staff who holds that he is not corrupt, wrote The Malta Independent should not be afraid of telling the truth in court. It concluded “How long, Prime Minister Muscat, will you continue to keep a man who is under so much suspicion right by your side?”
In-Nazzjon dedicated all the front page to the Schembri story, in its multi-faceted approach. The front page is largely a collage of pictures and captions which then lead the reader to the inner pages where more detail on the events of the case and the reactions to it are reported.
L-Orizzont dedicated a short column on the front page. It’s story is led with a quote attributed to Keith Schembri “ Schembri: I dropped the case reluctantly” (Schembri: Waqqajt il-kawża kontra qalbi)