The Malta Independent 10 December 2018, Monday

Daphne Caruana Galizia is a journalist, request to reveal source turned down by court; IGM reacts

Mathias Mallia Thursday, 17 March 2016, 11:31 Last update: about 4 years ago

Blogger and The Malta Independent columnist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was declared a journalist at law by Magistrate Francesco Depasquale and, as such, the requests by Minister for Health and Energy, Konrad Mizzi, his wife, Sai Mizzi Liang and his communication’s coordinator, Lindsey Gambin to force her into identifying her sources was turned down.

The blogger was sued for libel after she published an article in 2014 entitled “This is the Super One journalist Konrad Mizzi has been seeing, and the reason his wife left for China” alleging that Mizzi was cheating on his wife with his communications coordinator, Lindsey Gambin. The blog post also made reference to the marriage having being ruined by the alleged affair.

Magistrate Depasquale pointed out that the Press Act did not speak of ‘journalists’ but ‘authors’ and due to the lack of a concrete definition in Maltese law, the court focused on the European Council’s Committee of Ministers which defines a ‘journalist’ as “any natural or legal person who is regularly or professionally engaged in the collection and dissemination of information to the public via any means of mass communication.”

The court also held that Caruana Galizia’s blog fell under the remit of the Press Act saying that “There is no reason for which the electronic means used by the defendant should not be not considered as a newspaper.” This was in reply to the plaintiff’s argument that the Press Act only speaks of “newspapers or broadcasts” and, as such, the blog was not covered by it. It was also pointed out by the court that the act defined “printed matter” as “writing printed in typographical characters … or other means whereby words or visual images may be heard, perceived or reproduced.”

The court made reference to judgements by the European Court of Human Rights in upholding the blogger’s right to refuse to reveal her sources. The ECHR stated that protection of sources was “one of the basic conditions for press freedom” continuing to say that “without such protection, sources may be deterred from assisting the press in informing the public on matters of public interest. As a result, the vital public watchdog role of the press may be undermined and the ability of the press to provide accurate and reliable information may be adversely affected.”

The Malta Institute of Journalists welcomed the court's decision.

The protection of a source is one of the basic columns of the media's freedom, and without it sources could choose to stay away from speaking to journalists, the IGM said in a statement.

 

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