Commentator fined for libelling referee

A magistrate yesterday slammed a football match commentary as “amateurish and verging on the ridiculous” and found the commentator guilty of libelling the referee.

The commentator, Josef Galdes, repeatedly said Christopher Lautier, the referee, was officiating in a “shameful” manner and called him a “figolla of the year” (traditional Maltese Easter pastry).

At one point he said Sliema, who were playing against, Qormi, had been robbed of the match. Magistrate Francesco Depasquale said the court could not help but notice the “the amateurish and far from professional manner” in which Mr Galdes commentated the match.

“Even in the first half, when Mr Galdes had not yet begun his continuous attack on Mr Lautier, the commentary was very amateurish bordering on the ridiculous,” the magistrate noted.

The match was played on March 27, 2010 and broadcast on Smash TV later, with Sliema losing. It was during the second half, when a Qormi player was floored and Mr Lautier ordered a penalty, that Mr Galdes called him “figolla of the year”. He made various other disparaging comments about his control of the match.

The libel suit was also filed against commentator Renato Vella, who was assisting Mr Galdes, and the managing editor of Smash TV, Jesmar Baldacchino.

Mr Galdes argued he was a journalist and was expressing an opinion.

In considering evidence, the magistrate said that while it was true that some of the referee’s decisions were controversial, Mr Galdes had repeatedly attacked him.

Mr Vella did utter disparaging remarks but did not attack the personal integrity of Mr Lautier, in contrast to Mr Galdes.

The magistrate ordered Mr Galdes to pay Mr Lautier €1,500 and Mr Baldacchino a further €1,500 as the managing editor of the station.


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