Is it fair to be sacked for a status one posts on his personal Facebook account? What if this status hurts someone? What if this person works in local media? Then again, where is freedom of speech? Or is it all just a political game?
Here are the facts:
Last Sunday, many people attended a local charity motor show. During this event, unfortunately, a speeding Porshe (this was part of the show) lost control (let’s not go into why, I’m not a car expert) and ended up injuring 26 people, 5 of whom in a life-threatening critical way. This caused an uproar as many of the families, friends and acquaintances of those injured were obviously concerned. In a small country like ours, cases like this are quite rare, and touch everybody. Everyone was worried, however help was close and the Malta Police Force as well as Health Force, coordinated a manoeuvre which caused the injured people to be cared for quickly. Roads were closed as needed and Maltese media gave updates of the situation as they took place.
Now here’s the issue – one particular person, to be precise, a DJ who works for a radio station belonging to one of the two major political parties in Malta, in his usual satirical way, posted a couple of Facebook statuses about the accident. The statuses were not, as such, particularly violent, they did not accuse anybody or point at anyone, however personally I feel that, so close to the fact and with people still hurt and in danger of their lives – they were superfluous. More than that, they were hurtful to the families of those fighting for their lives, and those who had been at the event and had been frightened, as the huge vehicle speeded up and crashed into the crowd next to them. Satire and sarcasm are all well and good HOWEVER one must also be careful where and when to say certain stuff. When in doubt, better keep silent instead of blabbering to all and sundry.
That being said, there was an uproar. This person was lynched, sent hate messages, and blatantly shredded to pieces by everybody. And that was ‘fine’, since, let’s face it, he made a mistake.
Then he was sacked.
And I’m still not sure why. The reason would seem pretty straight forward, but is it? Here are some issues which should be taken into account:
- The Political Aspect – keep in mind that in Malta, almost everything has a political aspect. Or, let us say that many people give a political aspect to everything. Be that as it may, in this case the DJ in question worked at the major radio station held by a specific political party. Since in Malta most people can’t seem to differentiate between a private individual and his opinions, and a political party and it’s opinions, equating the opinions of one to the other, many people seemed ready and happy to point fingers and say that since this guy was deriding hurt people, his party was insensitive. Which is why his political party, in a bid to disassociate itself from the guy, promptly sacked him – maintaining that they were shocked at his behavior and lack of values and that they themselves thought nothing of the kind since they were good Christians and people and respected other people’s sorrow… yada yada yada So, in other words, he was sacked because of politics… or was he?
- The Media Aspect – one must remember that it is quite one thing to say something as an individual, and another to say something as a member of the media. The guy in question has, it is known, a kind of ‘image’ as a sarcastic and sharp critic of society, therefore I assume he wanted to shock and attention-seek, which is why he posted said statuses. This was a mistake. Particularly so close to the event. If he had, perhaps, waited a couple of months and slowly introduced the idea, coupling it to the lack of security at the event, that would have been one thing. However, when one works in the media industry one must be doubly and triply aware of how one places words, since that person would be not just speaking for himself, but representing his radio station too.
3. The Freedom of Speech Aspect – And here we have it – here is the crux of the argument – WHERE OH WHERE IS FREEDOM OF SPEECH? Yes this guy was an insensitive ass. He spoke without thinking about an issue which is very delicate and deserves respect. BUT isn’t that what Freedom of Speech is all about? Don’t people have the right to say and write what they think? Keep in mind that Malta is a country where censoring movies and theater productions is the order of the day, not to mention lyrics within popular events like the Gozo Carnival (I remember when around five years ago, a number of songs were scratched out from the programme because of the lyrics), as well as Carnival costumes. So, it seems that as a country we still have yet to define that elusive line between freedom of speech and, well, shall I call it dictatorship? Censorship? Or respect? Hmm. In this case, where is one to draw that line?
Again, I do not condone what he said in any way and that is not the issue I am writing about.
Point is, was this guy sacked because of politics, because of media-related reasons, or just because his opinion and mode of expression was not a ‘conventional’ one and one shared by others? And by the way, these were just Facebook statuses posted on his personal space for Pete’s sake – why all the fuss?