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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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