Updated with IĠM statement at 5.15pm

Former parliamentary Secretary Deborah Schembri has apologised for a comment she made on TV yesterday.

Speaking on Pjazza on One TV, Dr Schembri said: "We talk about freedom of speech - but we need to be careful, there is a point we shouldn't exceed. We should not hurt people unnecessarily - that's not freedom of speech, that's abuse and people will get hurt."

She said that people will get irritated when faced with such writing and if there is no adequate punishment at law for those that abuse some will feel they need to take the law into their hands.

"I'm saying it because journalists need to be responsible for their writing," Dr Schembri said. 

Her comments sparked a discussion on social media, with many criticising the lawyer for failing to understand the concept of free speech. 

Among those who reacted was former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, who said he found Dr Shembri's comment chilling, insensitive and irresponsible.

But Dr Schembri also found criticism closer to home, with Parliamentary Secretary and former journalist Julia Farrugia tweeting that she disagreed with the argument that any journalist should be punished for crossing a line. 

In a Facebook post this afternoon, Dr Schembri wrote:

"I have said, amply clearly, that I strongly condemn the barbarous killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia. I was shocked to the core, and still am because I believe that nothing ever justifies the killing of another human being. And that is 'nothing' without exception. Yesterday’s comments should not be extrapolated as a message that it is good, or right, for people to take the law into their own hands if they feel aggrieved.

"It’s undoubtedly and unconditionally wrong. If, in any way, anyone received a different interpretation, I apologize and seek to clarify. Even though I will stay away from partisan spin which aims only at scoring political points. This delicate moment requires maturity.

"I am deeply angered at Monday’s grave occurrence because, as can be witnessed through my active campaigning over the years, I believe in Malta and

I am convinced that the country is much better than that. Precisely why, in one of my many comments during a live television programme, I mentioned the need to keep striving for a responsible and balanced society.

"The rule of law is above all. Absolutely everyone has the right to write and say whatever they want. And the law clearly provides for cases when the fundamental right of freedom of expression is abused. Hence those who feel wronged are entitled to protection by the courts and no other remedy.

"My genuine preoccupation actually arises from the fact that last Monday a criminal, or group of criminals, have in fact opted for other remedies. Tragic ones. Somebody has decided to take the law into their own hands.
The wrongdoing here is not of the journalist, but of the brutal person/s whose acts go against any dignity or civilisation.

"This is where I might have been misinterpreted by some or did not explain myself well. My profound emotion comes from the fact that Daphne Caruana Galizia herself had admitted receiving threats simply because she wrote allegations about the Leader of Opposition.

"I will not get into reports of her request to do without the protection of Police, but the fact remains that there are such criminals out there. In each and every society around the world. There are people who see no rhyme or reason, people who think they can be judge, jury and executioner. Hence my cry for responsibility from all. Because this murder is one too many. I too just want justice done. Sooner rather than later."

The Institute of Maltese Journalists, which never condemned Dr Schembri's original statement, said this afternoon it had contacted the former parliamentary secretary directly and it was satisfied she had now publicly clarified her position .

The IĠM appealed for responsible journalism but said it could never agree with limiting journalists' free speech.


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