The Malta Independent 19 November 2018, Monday

Azzopardi presents motion against 'dangerous' Speaker’s ruling that will 'censure political debate'

Julian Bonnici Friday, 19 October 2018, 11:48 Last update: about 29 days ago

MP Jason Azzopardi has presented a motion against the Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia's ruling that a tweet he posted was considered a breach of privilege, with Azzopardi describing the decision as a "dangerous, arrogant precedent that will censure political debate."

In the tweet, posted on the day of a heated parliamentary debate on 10 October, Azzopardi had said: "This evening one could see how the corrupt, those who eat tripe with killers behave: he disrupts those who would reveal his lies and deceit." Economy Minister Chris Cardona said that this tweet referred to him, and asked for a ruling from the Speaker as he considered it a breach of privilege. The Speaker found that the case is, prima facie, breach of privilege.

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In the motion, it is argued that "on a factual and legal nature"Azzopardi was using his fundamental right to political expression, which should, in particular, be protected when MPs were discussing issues on matters of national importance. 

"It is the duty of every MP, particularly that of the Opposition, to be able to criticise the government and its members freely," the motion read, adding that it was "inconceivable" for the Speaker to censure an MP for comments made outside the House given that there already exists legal remedies from those who feel they have been defamed. 

It was also noted that given that the post was made on social media, it does not apply to any Orders of the House.

It is also explained that Azzopardi was making his comments based on reports of investigative journalists looking into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, noting that Cardona had met with one of the accused before and after the murder, and a few hours prior to his arrest on 5 December. 

The motion also makes reference to phone calls made between Cardona, Pierre Darmanin ("a person allegedly involved in smuggling"), and the accused individual. The Malta Independent on Sunday recently revealed that there had been no phone calls between Cardona and Darmanin, while calls had been made between Darmanin and the accused.

The motion also claims that Cardona lied to a consortium of journalists when saying that he was present at a bar in Siggiewi with one of the accused and that by refusing to speak to them, rescinded on his duty as a Maltese Government Minister. 

There are also references to Cardona's decision to drop the libel case instituted against Caruana Galizia over claims that he visited a brothel while on official duty in Germany, saying that Cardona, by dropping the case, has refused the court and the public to view his call logs and exonerate him of the allegation.

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