The Malta Independent 27 February 2021, Saturday

Constitutional court highlights importance of press freedom in editors' libel case

Julian Bonnici Tuesday, 24 October 2017, 15:34 Last update: about 4 years ago

Former editors Ariadne Massa and Steve Mallia have been awarded €2,000 each after a constitutional court ruled that judgments passed down in their libel cases had violated their freedom of expression.

The article, ‘Patients swindled in scam - Top MUMN official investigated’, which was published by the Sunday Times of Malta in August 2010, claimed that a nurse and salesman were charging elderly patients €100 for tests which were available free-of-charge at public hospitals.

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Initially, the magistrate’s court ruled in favour of MUMN and ordered Massa to pay €10,000 and Mallia to pay €1,500 in damages to committee members. This was appealed, however the case was dismissed.

Massa and Mallia then filed a constitutional action against the Attorney General claiming that their right to freedom of expression had been infringed upon.

The article was published without a comment from the nurse involved, however,  Madam Justice Jacqueline Padovani Grima ruled that this was justified as it was an urgent case, and that criticism made did not constitute n attack on the MUMN committee.

Massa explained that they had tried to get a comment from the nurse, and was thusly not identified in the article; it was also put forward that the article was a matter of public interest.

Reference European Court judgements, Madam Justice Padovani Grima said that freedom of expression and the press in providing information to the public and acting as a watchdog was essential to a democratic society.

The court noted that the article did not specifically name the committee members, but rather used the phrase ‘top official’.
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