The Malta Independent 21 October 2021, Thursday

Libel accusation involving Xewkija local councillor and adulterous behaviour dismissed

Wednesday, 2 December 2015, 17:44 Last update: about 7 years ago

A libel accusation regarding a local councillor who was outed on social media as having an adulterous relationship by the woman's husband has been dismissed by the courts.

Inspector Frank Tabone accused Mario Degiorgio of slandering the name ofXewkija local councillor George Zammit.There were two accusations. Degorgiowas charged with slander under the Criminal Code and writing defamatory publications under the Press Act. The court, however dismissed the charge under the criminal code, pointing out that as the allegations had been made in writing, they fell under the remit of the Press Act.The second charge,that of defaming Mr Zammit by publishing information in some way regardless of where the information originally appeared, was dismissed due to it being time-barred.

It was heard that the defendant and Zammit were once great friends, however this came to an end when the complainant allegedly had an affair with the defendant's wife. Degorgio informed the complainant's children about this affair through a Facebook message.

The Court argued that one has a duty to protect their reputation and that such a duty rests mainly on the individual. He said that if a person does not safeguard his own reputation, "it would be futile to accuse another person of being the cause of loss of reputation and expect comfort from the courts." He cited a number of jurisprudence on the issue of freedom of expression.

The Magistrate noted that the complainant was an active politician, and noted that the limits of comments are very wide due to public interest and the fact that he was in the public eye.

He explained that a distinction must be made between fair comment and fact, and that in order for the comment to be justified it must be bona fide, which would not be the case if the facts behind it were not true. The magistrate said that punishing freedom of expression could have a chilling result.

The incident occurred on 23 August 2012, and the charges were signed on 3 August 2013 and filed on 23 August 2013.

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