Malta as seen from afar
The following is a word-for-word excerpt from a letter of a friend from a country far from Malta: “What’s going on there, folks? Planes falling from the sky, bombs at the airport…” Now we all know there was no connection between the two incidents, but people abroad do not have the local perspective. All they know is that on Day 1 a plane crashed at the airport and that some days later there was a huge explosion of fireworks in Gudja, which happens to be next to the airport. To make matters worse, among the videos which made the news websites outside Malta there was footage shot from inside the airport’s lounge and the caption said an explosion had happened next to the airport. We all know there was no connection between this explosion and the airport and that this was connected to a secondary feast at Gudja but foreigners cannot be expected to know that.
Now to top it all there is this video taken on
a Ryanair which happened to be on its way to Malta and this almighty fight while the plane was in the air. This video has made news round the world: it appeared all over the British press, the Italian, the French and in many other languages as well. But what nobody seemed to have known, or considered it to be important to add, not even the Maltese news media, was that the persons involved in this fight were not Maltese but Romanians.
This is a detail that may be insignificant to people living outside Malta but which is all important to us Maltese.
But this is how the media works: once a person or a country gets a certain name it gets very difficult for that person/country to live down the taint.
For a long time, Malta has been getting rave reviews as the new tourist venue in the Med waiting to be discovered by the public at large. People have been coming here and go away exclaiming this was a real discovery for them. But as much as a good name takes time to be built up, so too a couple of negative episodes can destroy the good name of a person or a country.
We live, after all, in a world terrified of terrorist attacks, an insecure world that tries to see what dangers lie ahead so as not to be faced with worse dangers. People are always afraid of what is not normal, what is strange, and a foreign country is right that.
When the Bataclan attacks took place in France a year ago, many people stopped going to France for a long time after that. But then, France being France, a place people knew and visited, tourism picked up again. Many people who come to Malta love the island and many come back. But a couple of incidents like mentioned at the beginning can do untold harm, especially when the reports are not exact or correct.
That is all the more reason to avoid anything that may bring Malta’s name in disrepute. We just cannot afford that.