The Malta Independent 17 February 2020, Monday

Calling MP Rosianne Cutajar prostitute not ‘one-off remark’, lawyer insists

Thursday, 23 January 2020, 15:59 Last update: about 24 days ago

A lawyer representing newly-appointed parliamentary secretary Rosianne Cutajar told a court that the “prostitute” label she was given was not a one-off remark but a system of conduct. The MP had long been putting up with such comments by the respondents who showed a persistently cheeky attitude, lawyer Edward Gatt said.

Cutajar filed proceedings against Occupy Justice activist Rachel Williams and Godfrey Leone Ganado, an accountant and occasional contributor to the press.

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Gatt said Leone Ganado should have had the decency of saying that it was a slip of the tongue. But instead, he had rubbed salt on the wound, indicating Cutajar as being a representative of prostitutes in Parliament.

The term 'prostitute' was the one that hurt a woman most, Gatt said. “What if that adjective had to be attributed to a member of Leone Ganado’s own family!”

As for Williams, who is also being sued, he said she had evidently gone along with Mr Leone Ganado’s comments, never telling him to stop.

The defence counsel Williams and Leone Ganado argued that likening the newly-appointed equality parliamentary secretary to a “prostitute” did not cause serious harm to her reputation.

Andrew Borg Cardona argued in court that the law on libel had changed over the past two years and that defamation had to prove “serious harm to reputation”.

Cutajar had filed for libel last year after Leone Ganada wrote on a post authored by Williams on Facebook: “Hamalli, prostitutes and call girls have a right to be represented in Parliament.” Williams, the court was told, did not try and stop the commenter but went along with his remarks.

Cutajar’s lawyer, Edward Gatt, told the court that Leone Ganado had used “an uncomfortable and unkind adjective”, to which Borg Cardona replied that such remarks were “fair comment in the context of [Cutajar’s] behaviour with particular reference to previous publications about her and/or by her and/or with her consent.”

Gatt said that the court ought to take a firm stance and send out a message, especially in the context that this was not a one-off remark but an unremitting conduct.

Borg Cardona told the court that Leone Ganado’s comments never amounted to defamation in terms of the law, and that likening Cutajar to a prostitute did not mean that she was one but that her behaviour was vulgar.  “All have a right to be represented,” he said. “Ironically, Cutajar’s portfolio now covers equality.”

To this comment, Cutajar loudly interjected, expressing disbelief at the lawyer’s comments but she was silenced by the court.

The case was put off for judgment.

Lawyer Mark Vassallo also assisted Ms Cutajar.

 

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