Among the obli­ga­tions of the State

Joseph Mus­cat’s skill at syn­the­sis­ing a sit­u­a­tion never fails to amaze me. He does it with ease and pre­ci­sion, hav­ing prob­a­bly honed the skill dur­ing his years as a jour­nal­ist. The lat­est ex­am­ple has been his syn­the­sis of Daphne Caru­ana Gal­izia as “con­sis

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS - Mark A. Sam­mut

Dr Mus­cat has a point. Had Daphne not in­dulged for so many years in in­vec­tive, per­sonal in­sults, ad hominem at­tacks, and abuse aimed at in­di­vid­u­als and their fam­i­lies, things might have been dif­fer­ent. But I think she spent a long time as an ugly cater­pil­lar un­til she be­came the but­ter­fly that is now be­ing cel­e­brated as an in­ter­na­tional phe­nom­e­non: the per­sona of a fear­less in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist that many ad­mired rather than the piti­less pusher of a poi­sonous pen that so many oth­ers de­spised.

With the ben­e­fit of hind­sight, we can now say that Daphne would have prof­ited from an or­gan­i­sa­tion to back her up. She could not re­al­is­ti­cally be a one-(wo)man show. Had there been an ed­i­to­rial board for her blog, things might have been dif­fer­ent. In­stead, it has been like a Greek tragedy. She launched her blog to avoid the shack­les of an ed­i­to­rial board, and had those shack­les been in place, things might have been dif­fer­ent. At least this is what I can con­clude about be­long­ing to an or­gan­i­sa­tion, af­ter read­ing the book on the Panama Pa­pers leaks writ­ten by Ober­mayer and Ober­maier, the two Ger­man jour­nal­ists who spear­headed the in­ter­na­tional un­cov­er­ing of that scan­dal.

One can­not help but ask what the role of the State should have been in this im­broglio. It seems that Daphne de­tested the shack­les of an ed­i­to­rial board as much as she de­tested those of po­lice pro­tec­tion.

How­ever, I strongly be­lieve that the State has an ob­jec­tive duty to pro­tect the lives of all hu­man be­ings on its ter­ri­tory, and it does not de­pend on the sub­jec­tive wishes of the in­di­vid­ual(s) in­volved. There are many rea­sons for this. One is the found­ing no­tion of a civilised so­ci­ety that we all cede our free­dom to pro­tect our- selves by our own means in re­turn for an or­dered so­ci­ety. For that so­cial or­der to be at­tained, the State has to en­joy a mo­nop­oly on vi­o­lence, with the im­plicit obli­ga­tion of us­ing that mo­nop­oly also to pro­tect all hu­man be­ings in its ter­ri­tory. When the State uses vi­o­lence thus mo­ti­vated, it be­comes an act of sovereignty.

What about the ar­gu­ment that there are those who do not wish to be pro­tected?

I think that that is a lame ar­gu­ment, for the sim­ple rea­son that no man is an is­land; we are all mem­bers of a com­mu­nity and the elim­i­na­tion of one of us is of con­cern to all of us.

This is the logic be­hind the im­po­si­tion of the seat­belt. We are co­erced into wear­ing seat­belts not be­cause the State pa­ter­nal­is­ti­cally wants to pro­tect our lives, but also be­cause the State wants to avoid the ex­penses re­lated to traf­fic ac­ci­dents.

We are pun­ished if we don’t send our chil­dren to school, not so much be­cause the State wants our chil­dren to suc­ceed in life (as­sum­ing it is true that ed­u­ca­tion is the key to suc­cess), but be­cause the State needs fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to keep the sys­tem run­ning, and for this lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy are in­dis­pens­able.

Sim­i­larly, the State has to act in­de­pen­dently of the wishes of the in­di­vid­ual and find ways to pro­tect the lives of all hu­man be­ings on its ter­ri­tory. Daphne’s as­sas­si­na­tion was not just a loss for her fam­ily, friends, and fans. It was a se­ri­ous at­tack on jour­nal­ism ev­ery­where. Above all, it is a na­tional tragedy, a tragedy for the en­tire com­mu­nity of the Mal­tese na­tion. Her death has cast a shadow on us all, on our coun­try, on our State and our so­ci­ety. We are all pay­ing the price for the State’s in­abil­ity to pro­tect Daphne and, I would add, oth­ers whose life might be in dan­ger be­cause of their pro-

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