Caruana Galizia loses appeal against Julia Farrugia

Comments were 'statements of fact'

A series of posts uploaded by blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia in respect of former journalist and current Labour candidate Julia Farrugia, have been confirmed as defamatory by a court of appeal which confirmed the payment of libel damages to the tune of €3,000.

Following a number of posts and unedited comments on the blogger's Running Commentary, linking Ms Farrugia's father to the murder of Raymond Caruana, a Nationalist Party activist who was hit by gunfire aimed at the facade of the party's club in Gudja in 1986, Ms Farrugia had instituted libel proceedings against the blogger.

The applicant's father had been indicated by a witness in court as the person who had allegedly fired the submachine gun at the PN club. This witness, Gianni Psaila, was later found dead at the pit of a lift shaft.

A magistrate's court had rejected Ms Caruana Galizia's argument that her statements amounted to fair comment and that she had no control over comments passed by third parties on her blogs.

The court of appeal, presided over by Mr Justice Anthony Ellul, observed that the comments at the heart of the proceedings had indeed “nothing to do with value judgments or fair comment, but were statements of fact".

Describing Ms Farrugia as "a bitch, a cow and a prostitute" served to tarnish the applicant's public image. Moreover, the repeated insistence upon the alleged link of Ms Farrugia's father to the politically-motivated murder, possibly diminished the applicant's credibility when as a journalist she wrote about political issues.

The court also noted that the applicant had denied the allegations surrounding her father and had stressed that no criminal proceedings had been instituted in his regard.

Declaring that “the fundamental right of freedom of expression does not translate into a right to harm other people's reputations," the court confirmed the decision by the magistrate's court which had pronounced the comments as defamatory.

The court also rejected a cross-appeal by Ms Farrugia who had requested a higher compensation for damages, confirming the sum of €3,000. The court stated that, besides not wishing to disturb the evaluation by the first court, it was not convinced that there was a basis for an increase in compensation.