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Norma Saliba claims character assassination in Maltese language centre saga

Norma Saliba, who was recently appointed head of a new Centre for the Maltese Language, claimed on Friday she was the victim of a character assassination campaign.

In a Facebook post late on Friday, Saliba also questioned the efforts by the National Council for the Maltese Language - which is calling her appointment "illegal" - to preserve and promote the Maltese language. 

Saliba was last month appointed executive director of the new centre after she was edged out of the TVM newsroom following disagreements with Public Broadcasting Services boss Mark Sammut.

The centre is set to serve as the “administrative, organisational and operational organ of the National Council of the Maltese Language,” according to a legal notice published just before the announcement of the appointment.

But the announcement did not go down well with the council, which gave Culture Minister Owen Bonnici 10 days to withdraw the legal notice to set up a centre together with Saliba's appointment.

The council’s judicial protest came days after Mark Amaira - an expert in the Maltese language complained about the "humiliation" of the Maltese language and Saliba’s “illegal” appointment.

The government responded to the legal challenges, saying members of the National Council of the Maltese Language should take it up with their president.

Bonnici also insisted that Saliba's role requires managerial and administrative experience, which he argued Saliba had plenty of.

On Friday the council declared it had “full confidence” in its president Olvin Vella, whom it said was “an academic who has worked incessantly in favour of the Maltese language as his aspiration and his only agenda”.

Later in the day, Saliba claimed on Facebook she was among several people who were suffering a character assassination campaign in silence.

What is the council's vision?

She recalled that the council itself had, some years ago, awarded her for her good use of Maltese as a journalist, and that she had also recently worked with the entity to strenghten the use of the language in journalism.

Saliba questioned whether the council had, following the recent events, allowed her to prove herself. 

"I ask: what work is the council carrying out? What projects does it have for the preservation and promotion of the Maltese language? When will we have an updated national dictionary? Should we have a spell-checker? Are we satisfied with the Maltese language technological tools? Are there enough resources for the promotion and use of our mother tongue? What is the council's vision for the coming years to ensure we don't lose the Maltese language?"

Saliba said that while everyone should enjoy freedom of expression, no one should resort to character assassination without checking the facts or at least try to start working with the person.

She asked whether anyone had inquired about her qualifications and experience, the pay pocketed by other executive directors or why she had not resisted the publication of her contract.

Times of Malta obtained a copy of Saliba’s €72,000-a-year contract through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

In her statement on Friday, Saliba added that her previous collagues could vouch for her professionalism, and that she had worked under both PL and PN administrations.

She claimed the character assassination campaign against her had intensified in recent days.

While she welcomed criticism about her work, she could not accept being attacked and insulted.

She warned that such attacks could dishearten people who, like her, had worked hard for a career while bringing up children.