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Caruana Galizia fined in criminal libel case

Columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia was today fined €1,165 after being convicted of criminal libel in a case instituted by the Police following an application by Labour Party deputy leader Anglu Farrugia.

The columnist in a statement said she would appeal and if necessary also take the case before the Constitutional Court and the European Court.

Dr Farrugia had asked the police to institute court proceedings against Ms Caruana Galizia following publication of an article in The Malta Independent on May 15, 2003 under the heading The anything goes party.

The article was published immediately before the Labour Party leadership election of the time. In it, Ms Caruana Galizia said she was mistreated by then police inspector Farrugia when she and others were arrested during a demonstration. Ms Caruana Galizia was 19 at the time.

Dr Farrugia denied that she was mistreated and objected to the comments made by the columnist.

The court, presided by Magistrate Silvio Meli, said the two sides had given different versions of what they said were the facts of the case and the columnist had failed to prove the facts of the case as she had alleged them to be.

The court said Dr Farrugia was right to have felt libelled by the article, whose purpose was to present a situation and through it, attack Dr Farrugia without quarter in an exercise of militant journalism with the precise purpose of harming his reputation. .

Such an intention was also clear from the fact that the article was published when it could cause most damage, allowing no time for a proper reply.

In a statement after the judgement was announced, Ms Caruana Galizia said she had given notice of appeal and if that failed, she would go before the Constitutional Court and, if necessary, the European Court.

"Maltese criminal defamation law is an archaism in the 21st century in an EU member state. It has always been an archaism in a democracy. Facts are sacred and comment is free. That is an observation which underpins the principle of freedom of expression," she said.

She insisted that none of the facts about which she had commented were untrue.

Ms Caruana Galizia noted that Dr Farrugia had used the police to prosecute her rather than file a civil suit. "Criminal defamation law has been repealed by those EU member states which had such a law, or it has been allowed to fall into disuse as a dead letter, for the simple reason that it is not compatible with journalistic freedom of expression in a democracy. When the police prosecute journalists at the request of politicians, and those journalists are fined, it is almost always in an undeveloped country with a poor human rights record and the case makes the international news, used as evidence of just how backward that country is."

She said she would also be going before the Constitutional Court in another case - Mark Anthony Sammut versus Daphne Caruana Galizia, which was a civil case.

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