Zur­rieq dou­ble-decker story on ‘www.in­depe

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - NEWS -

Stephen Calleja

The death of two for­eign­ers in a freak ac­ci­dent in Zur­rieq in early April was the most read story on The Malta In­de­pen­dent web­site www.in­de­pen­dent.com.mt dur­ing 2018.

On 9 April, a Span­ish woman and a Bel­gian man were killed in­stantly when the dou­bledecker bus they were on crashed into a tree. An­other 50 peo­ple were treated for in­juries, some of them se­ri­ous, as the top part of the bus slammed into a tree at the side of the road.

This in­ci­dent was fol­lowed by a lengthy de­bate on the pres­ence of trees on Mal­tese roads, with many, which started to be con­sid­ered as be­ing dan­ger­ous to traf­fic and pedes­tri­ans, be­ing chopped off or pruned.

The sec­ond most read story had a for­eign flavour and was bro­ken lo­cally by The Malta In­de­pen­dent which re­vealed that Venezuela Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated in the United States of Amer­ica for hav­ing laun­dered some €160 mil­lion through an un­named Mal­tese pri­vate in­vest­ment firm, ac­cord­ing to a Home­land Se­cu­rity In­ves­ti­ga­tions crim­i­nal com­plaint filed in the courts of Mi­ami.

In third place was an­other story which was bro­ken by this news­room in April and dealt with elec­tric­ity bills which were higher than what they should be. This is be­cause bills are be­ing sent more fre­quently, and the com­plex­ity of how they are cal­cu­lated adds to fur­ther sus­pi­cions that con­sumers are be­ing charged more than they should. Gov­ern­ment is deny­ing this, but com­plaints con­tinue to ar­rive to this day.

Not many sto­ries deal­ing with pol­i­tics made it to the top 20 of our most read sto­ries. It could be that peo­ple have be­come fed up of Mal­tese pol­i­tics – or per­haps of Mal­tese politi­cians and their shenani­gans.

One of the many sto­ries car­ried dur­ing 2018 on the pres­sure faced by Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat to dis­miss his Tourism Min­is­ter Kon­rad Mizzi and chief of staff Kon­rad Mizzi over the Panama Pa­pers scan­dal – a story that started in April 2016 but still re­ver­ber­ates to­day – made it to only the 18th place of our list.

But there were two other sto­ries about dif­fi­cult mo­ments Mus­cat had to deal with that made it to higher places among our read­ers.

The in­ter­view Mus­cat gave to the BBC, in which he was de­scribed by jour­nal­ist James Sweeney as be­ing the Art­ful Dodger of Europe and the pass­port-seller-in-chief, fin­ished a high sixth place. That in­ter­view, which was aired in Jan­uary, af­fected the way Mus­cat treated the me­dia from thereon. Af­ter that BBC in­ter­view, Mus­cat chose to send oth­ers in his stead to “de­fend” Malta’s name, in­clud­ing his deputy Chris Fearne and, more re­cently, Ed­ward Sci­cluna and Glenn Bed­ing­field. In Malta, Mus­cat con­tin­ues to turn down re­quests for in­ter­views by the in­de­pen­dent me­dia, pre­fer­ring to ac­cept one-to-ones only with friendly jour­nal­ists.

The sec­ond in­stance which had Mus­cat blush­ing was the time when a group of Mal­tese peo­ple shouted “shame on you” in the heart of London as the PM and his wife Michelle were en­ter­ing a build­ing where an ac­tiv­ity re­lated to Malta’s pass­ports-for­sale scheme was to be held. This story was ninth on our list of most-read sto­ries in 2018.

An­other story which ex­posed how Malta’s pass­port scheme is viewed very neg­a­tively in for- eign quar­ters was the one in which we re­ported that mem­bers of the Ital­ian po­lit­i­cal party Cinque Stelle walked out of an event in Si­cily when Pres­i­dent Marie Louise Coleiro Preca was about to start her ad­dress. This was the 20th most read story last year.

The killing of busi­ness­man Hugo Chet­cuti in Paceville was un­sur­pris­ingly present twice in our top 20 sto­ries, with the story about his death the fourth most read story while the stab­bing, which took place six days ear­lier, was 11th. An­other story in­volv­ing Chet­cuti – his in­ter­est to stretch his busi­ness em­pire from Paceville to Bal­luta, which was car­ried in Jan­uary, six months be­fore his mur­der – fin­ished num­ber 16.

Two other mur­ders were greatly fol­lowed by our read­ers, the killing of a Dutch woman in Santa Ven­era and the mur­der of two women in a do­mes­tic in­ci­dent in Gharghur.

On a much lighter note, the time when Par­tit Demokratiku MP Mar­lene Far­ru­gia told her part­ner and fel­low MP God­frey Far­ru­gia to go check the food which was burn­ing while she was giv­ing a press con­fer­ence in their own res­i­dence also grabbed our read­ers’ at­ten­tion and ended up in 19th place.

Two peo­ple died when the top part of a dou­ble-decker bus smashed into a tree in Zur­rieq

Busi­ness­man Hugo Chet­cuti died in hos­pi­tal six days af­ter be­ing stabbed in one of his Paceville es­tab­lish­ments

A Dutch woman was found dead, her throat slashed, in Santa Ven­era

Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro

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