A 17-minute, racist tirade filmed on a smartphone by an angry Maltese man that went viral on Facebook, turns out not to have been prompted by a real assault or violence as claimed by its author, Ryan Fenech.
Fenech’s outburst – filmed inside his car as he called on listeners to ‘throw out blacks coming by boat’ and warning of the furious rampage he would visit upon anyone who ‘touches [my] children’ – was shared 4,000 times on Facebook before his claims of an attack by a black man on his parents were even verified.
Now he told Lovin Malta, whose uncritical broadcast of his Facebook post attracted criticism, that the attack which triggered his call to arms against migrants did not involve any violence and may not have been reported to the police.
“According to my dad, he and my mum had parked in Buġibba to go for a stroll. They got out of the car, and when they started walking, there was a migrant,” he told the news website.
“The man grabbed my dad’s hand out of nowhere, and said: ‘stop, I want to talk to you’. My dad told him ‘no, I don’t want to talk to you’ and tried to take his hand off… he didn’t know this man at all. But as my parents walked away, the man got up and started following them, saying ‘stop now, stop’. Then he said ‘stop or if I come near you, you’ll see what I do to you’.
“My parents walked away as fast as they could even though they are elderly. My mum started panicking, saying: ‘Ejja Twan please stop’. When they tried to return to their car, the man was waiting for them there. My dad, a former police officer, put his hands in his pockets, said ‘Can you please stop following us?’ and they got in their car and drove away as the man watched them.”
Fenech’s video was since been deleted, but he was taken in for questioning by police over incitement to racial hatred.
The 35-year-old turnkey contractor garnered the support of zookeeper Anton Cutajar, one of the ringleaders in a far-right counter-protest during the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Valletta. Cutajar said on Facebook he was raising funds for Fenech’s legal defence. Cutajar is also raising awareness for a petition to MPs to suspend Malta’s international obligations to rescue migrants at sea.
Fenech has refused accusations that his outburst had been racist. “Maybe when I said ‘blacks’ people took it bad, especially since I’m not against anyone or their race, but I was angry because this could have been anyone’s parents,” he was quoted as saying.
Fenech said he “spends days” with migrant workers, who tend to be both legally employed in the world of construction, but also exploited as temporary workers picked up from the Marsa thoroughfare.