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The Sunday Times of Malta fined for libel

Magistrate argues 'journalist and health minister colluded against MUMN'

17 September 2012, 12:00am
The Sunday Times of Malta and journalist Ariadne Massa have been ordered to pay a total of €11,500 to MUMN president Paul Pace, and MUMN officials Colin Galea, George Saliba and Maria Cutajar after a court convicted the journalist of libel.

The case stemmed from an article in the newspaper entitled 'Patients swindled in scam - Top MUMN official investigated' written by Massa on 22 August 2010.

In the article, it had been alleged that "a nurse and a salesman swindled vulnerable patients out of hundreds of euros by offering therapy not provided by the state and leading them to believe it was free".

The journalist reported that an internal inquiry had been commissioned by the Health Ministry and its findings were handed over to the Police Commissioner last Friday.

The Sunday Times added that the nurse involved in the scam was "employed in a managerial position at Mater Dei and occupies a top post within the structures of the Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses".

A spokesman for the Health Minister had also told the journalist that it "was evaluating what disciplinary action to take".

In handing down judgement, Magistrate Francesco Depasquale said "the court may almost conclude that there was collusion between the journalist and the Health Minister against MUMN".

Depasquale argued that at the time of the article, there were ongoing conflicts between the MUMN and the health minister and he so concluded that the aim of the news report was to harm the MUMN leadership.

The magistrate also noted that the Department of Information had only informed the public over the police investigation two days after the Sunday Times published its story.

Testifying in court, Paul Pace said the article had caused so much damage that he had to withdraw his candidature for the post of vice president of the European Federation of Nurses.

Journalist Ariadne Massa told the court that since she found the nurse involved in the scam listed as the chairman of an MUMN subcommittee, she regarded him as an MUMN official.

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In handing down his judgement whereby he convicted a journalist of the Sunday Times of libel and ordered her and the newspaper's editor to pay a total of €11,500 to officials of the Malta Union of Nurses and Midwives, Magistrate Francesco Depasquale argued that at the time of the article, there were ongoing conflicts between the MUMN and the Health Minister that led him to conclude that the aim of the news report was to harm the MUMN leadership. In fact the court may almost conclude that there was collusion between the journalist and the Health Minister against MUMN. Another case that comes immediately to mind hinting to such collusion between the Health Minister and the Sunday Times concerns an interview with the Honourable Minister Joe Cassar published in the Sunday Times of 11th March, 2012, which might also constitute a cause of action by the MUMN for defamation. In that interview the Honourable Minister tried hard to discredit the Union and put its officials in a bad light with both their union members and the general public by labelling them as collaborators of the Labour Party. He boasted that as a psychiatrist he had learnt to observe and according to him when the MUMN had issued a statement the opposition had held a press conference the next day saying exactly the same thing. Furthermore, the Minister had put the Union Administration’s legitimacy in doubt by saying that he can say, hand on heart, that there were so many nurses meeting him and dissociating themselves from the MUMN’s current administration. He tried to insinuate that the President did not enjoy the support of most of the union members by saying that ‘Mr Pace will now have an extraordinary general meeting with his 100 to 200 close delegates who will wave his flag and give him their support’. The Honourable Minister even went to the extent of accusing MUMN of holding the management as its hostage. However, now that the general elections are always getting closer the Honourable Minister seems to have changed his tune and is keeping back from insulting MUMN and its officials at least for the time being until the elections are over.
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albert leone
Surprise SURPRISE - No coverage of this story on PBS, Natalino Fenech's Nationalist Station!
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Rita Grioli
Malta Gestapo jew SS????
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albert leone
Wow! Will this be given coverage on PBS news?
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albert leone
Wow!
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Yanika Chetcuti
So much for the TOM! These people will not need to call out for contributions to settle, eh!
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John Zammit
In handing down judgement, Magistrate Francesco Depasquale said "the court may almost conclude that there was collusion between the journalist and the Health Minister against MUMN. According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary collusion means 1. “secret understanding esp. for fraudulent causes. 2 Law such an understanding between ostensible opponents in a lawsuit. What a shame on the minister and ariade massa who isn’t just a journalist but is in the highest hierarchy of the Times what magistrate depasquale is reported to have noted is true. This ruling by magistrate Francesco Depasquale goes on to show (if there was any proof needed) that whoever gonzipn wants to eliminate its spin doctors go into collusion with the so called independent press to achieve its aim.