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

Ed­i­tor’s pick

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.

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