The Malta Independent 15 April 2021, Thursday

Updated: Yorgen Fenech's lawyer offers cash to Times of Malta journalist

Tuesday, 3 November 2020, 15:07 Last update: about 6 months ago

A Times of Malta rejected an offer of cash from Yorgen Fenech’s legal team, the newspaper reports.

Journalist Ivan Martin was handed a bundle of €500 notes by lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran (photo, left) at the end of a meeting in Valletta on Monday. The journalist handed the money back and informed his editors, Times of Malta said.

Fenech’s legal team says the journalist led it to believe he was offering to help “neutralise the bias in the reporting in the media.” It said it was not privy to his terms of employment with Times of Malta and the journalist only mentioned that he works full-time at the newspaper after he was offered remuneration for his “services.”

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In a statement on Monday night, Caruana Curran claimed that it was Martin who had approached the defence team, and claimed he was trying to get “dirt” on lawyer Arthur Azzopardi. He claimed Martin had also discussed sources and complained that the newspaper was “totally under the control of the Caruana Galizia family.”

The newspaper denies these claims, saying that its journalists to not discuss sources and that neither the Caruana Galizia family nor any other person or organisation sets the editorial policy of Times of Malta.

Chamber of Advocates to investigate

The Chamber of Advocates, in a statement, said that it has taken note of the situation and is launching an investigation.

"The Chamber considers the allegations made against the lawyer mentioned in that report as very serious and shall be asking the Committee for Advocates and Legal Procurators, a sub-committee of the Commission for the Administration of Justice, to investigate the alleged conduct."

IGM statement

The Institute of Maltese Journalists (IĠM) issued a statement about the matter.

It said that Ivan Martin is to be applauded for his handling of the situation, "given that it cannot have been easy at all. Such situations normally take one by surprise and experience and integrity play a great part in such cases. "

IGM said that for a journalist to accept a bribe, a most basic ethical principle would have been breached. "Indeed, this ethical principle does not apply only to journalists but to all professions. Bribery, and accepting a bribe is a criminal act. "

The IGM said that "this criminal act happened on the very day that the international community was celebrating the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. We urge the Times of Malta to take definitive steps to follow the case up with the relevant authorities."

"The fact that an experienced defence lawyer mis-read the journalist's outreach is serious enough in itself. To add to that a flagrant assumption that for the journalist to do his work, he needed a bribe speaks volumes on the kind of society we are living in today. This debasement of the concept of duty and professionalism shows that the wine of values has really reached the dregs. Finally, the IĠM notes that this is the sort of miasma which is plaguing society and which journalists face, in various forms daily. This time it was money, but really, from threats to bullying, to trolling, to SLAPP to bribery, the whole gamut of corrupt practices is an ongoing drag. The IĠM will support all bona fide journalists in their quest for professionalism."

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