The former chief of staff of the Maltese Prime Minister commented ominously on a message of the journalist of Avvenire. Expressions of Solidarity.
On Saturday 27th June 2020, Nello Scavo, the illustrious journalist of the newspaper Avvenire, received a threatening message on Twitter from Neville Gafà, former chief of staff of the Maltese prime minister until the beginning of 2020.
“Stop your dirty business. Otherwise, we will stop you,” wrote Gafà in reply to Nello Scavo who – commenting on an AlarmPhone tweet – had asked him some questions about the involvement of the Maltese authorities in some worrying episodes of returning migrants to Libya. The journalist has been following the events of the trafficking of migrants by sea across the Mediterranean for some time and has investigated the rôle played by the Maltese authorities. Due to his investigations Nello Scavo has lived under police protection since October 2019, when he suffered threats for having revealed, in several articles accompanied by photos, that Abd al-Rahaman al-Milad known as Bija, a Libyan considered by the UN as a human trafficker, was present at a meeting with Italian authorities that took place in Sicily in 2017.
THE FACTS – The chief editor of Avvenire, Marco Tarquinio, published an editorial on the latest threats received by Scavo, recounting the facts and expressing solidarity with the journalist (read here). It all starts, he wrote, from a message posted by AlarmPhone, (“Hotline for boatpeople in distress”), a non-profit organization that provides a telephone number to gather and sort calls to authorities from migrants who are in serious emergency situations, to support rescue operations.
Alarm Phone had written that 95 people in difficulty had contacted them and then belatedly rescued at sea and taken back to Libya in an operation that cost the lives of 6 people. The AlarmPhone post ended with the phrase: “Europe: stop killing at sea!”. Neville Gafa had responded to that message by talking about “the dirty business of NGOs”. Nello Scavo, in turn, had asked Gafa about “dirty businesses” affecting Malta, and the former chief of staff replied with the threatening phrase, tagging the journalist’s account. Scavo replied by asking Gafa what he meant. Gafà has no longer responded.
WHO IS NEVILLE GAFÀ – For years he has been a close collaborator of the Maltese government. It seems that from January 2020 he no longer has any institutional rôle. Nello Scavo told Ossigeno that after the exchange of tweets he was contacted by representatives of the government of Malta who expressed solidarity and in a friendly tone suggested that he no longer deal with Gafa, since the latter would no longer be part of the government team. “We – Nello Scavo added – asked the government to specify in writing what Neville Gafà’s role has been and what it is today, and to specify if he has any official position, but we have not yet received an answer”. The journalist thinks that probably the ex-chief of staff of the Maltese prime minister was irritated by the story of the so-called Easter Monday massacre, a rejection of migrants which went wrong, whose outcome was 5 dead migrants, 7 missing at sea and 51 survivors, including a 47-day-old baby girl, who just after landing in Libya would have been deported to Tarik Al Sikka prison (read the Avvenire article). The story told by the newspaper of the Association of Italian Bishops revealed the background of the omission of a rescue, despite the requests for help, the responsibilities of Malta and the role of Neville Gafà who, as he himself admitted, albeit not officially, had managed that affair on behalf of the government, given its good relations with Libya. “For that massacre of migrants – Nello Scavo told Ossigeno – an investigation was opened which saw the Maltese prime minister and the head of the armed forces accused. The investigation has been closed, although an appeal by the relatives of the victims appears to be ready. I was interrogated as a person informed of the facts by the Maltese authorities”. That AlarmPhone tweet seems to have been Gafa’s opportunity to attack Nello Scavo.
SOLIDARITY – The journalist has received numerous expressions of solidarity : from Ossigeno, from the National Order of Journalists, from the FNSI (the National Federation of Italian Press) , from the editorial committee of the newspaper, from his colleagues, from the deputy minister of the interior Matteo Mauri and from various politicians.