The Malta Independent 16 April 2024, Tuesday
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Court of Appeal upholds judgment finding Daphne Caruana Galizia guilty of libel

Neil Camilleri Monday, 1 June 2015, 11:43 Last update: about 10 years ago

The court of appeal has upheld a judgement which had found columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia guilty of libel in a case instituted by former MLP President and radio presenter Manuel Cuschieri over an article she penned in 1999. Mrs Caruana Galizia had been ordered to pay Mr Cuschieri €950 in damages after a court found that the article, in which she referred to him as ‘Mr Evil’ was defamatory.

The columnist had also written that Mr Cuschieri had a seditious agenda and was “deliberately watering the seeds of ignorance, hatred and suspicion, bringing them to full flowering.” She had also written that Mr Cuschieri followed a “hate creed” and “sowed the seeds of anti-Semitism.” Mr Cuschieri had claimed that this was character assassination.

Mrs Caruana Galizia had argued that her article constituted fair comment, based and built on facts which were substantially true and of interest to the public. Her defence was dismissed by Mr Justice J.R Micallef, who ordered her to pay Mr Cuschieri €950 in damages plus legal expenses.

She subsequently appealed the judgement, arguing that she had every right to comment on the man’s behaviour during his programmes and pass a value judgment on him, including occasions where these value judgments shock, offend and confuse those who read them.

The court noted that the article did not allege that Mr Cuschieri expressed anti-semitic sentiments but that the style of his programme was reminiscent of that used by anti-semitists in the past. The proof presented by the columnist did show that Mr Cuschieri incited hatred, or at least contempt at particular persons, including through disloyal tactics like false suggestions. Therefore, the court could not say that her comment on the style of Mr Cuschieri’s broadcast methods was not based on facts or that it constituted unfair comment.

The court said, however, that Mr Cuschieri did not have a sedition agenda and that the columnist might have misused the word, wrongly attributing him a criminal offence. The court agreed with the original judgement, insisting that Mrs Caruana Galizia had not used one of the many legitimate methods available to her, instead of resorting to insult or character assassination.

The court dismissed Caruana Galizia’s appeal, confirmed the judgment of the first court and ordered her pay the costs of the lawsuit.

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