Journalist says Manuel Delia’s insinuation that he was connected to Caruana Galizia murder caused him to fear for his safety

MaltaToday journalist Raphael Vassallo sued Manuel Delia after the blogger insinuated that he had some form of connection with the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder

Blogger Manuel Delia alleged that MaltaToday journalist Raphael Vassallo (inset) is part of the mafia conspiracy that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia
Blogger Manuel Delia alleged that MaltaToday journalist Raphael Vassallo (inset) is part of the mafia conspiracy that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia

MaltaToday journalist Raphael Vassallo has categorically denied insinuations made by blogger and civil society activist Manuel Delia that he had some form of connection with the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder.

Testifying in a libel suit he filed against the blogger, Vassallo said the insinuation had caused him to fear for his safety.

The libel concerns a blog post penned by Delia on 28 October titled ‘Long Read: 416bis’.

The post referred to the Italian Criminal Code and specifically to article 416bis which spoke of ‘omertà’ as a form of tacit complicity used to help masterminds of mafia crimes to get away with their crimes.

“This is where Raphael Vassallo comes in. Unwittingly, or perhaps because he is part of the mafia conspiracy that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia, he perpetrates the myth that arresting and punishing the triggermen resolves the crime. That is how he (and others) cover up for the mafia, thereby being part of it,” Manuel Delia wrote in his blog.

Vassallo said the statement alleged that he was an accomplice to murder.

“It is completely based on lies,” Vassallo testified this afternoon before Magistrate Rachel Montebello.

“He is making a serious allegation, that I am an accomplice in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia… He made reference to the 416bis anti-mafia law and placing me in the middle of this,” Vassallo said.

The blog entry was written as a reply to an article which Vassallo had penned in the MaltaToday of 7 February 2019, he explained. “Nowhere did I argue that arresting a triggerman solves the crime,” protested Vassallo, in response to one of the allegations made on Delia’s blog.

The allegation was entirely spurious, he insisted.

“He literally invented it… placing words in my mouth. He is implying omertà… it implies that you know about a crime and don’t speak. Tacit complicity. He’s implying that I know who murdered Caruana Galizia and tried to help them get away with their crimes. This is a very serious allegation. I categorically deny it. The argument is completely false.”

Vassallo continued: “Then he adds ‘or perhaps he is a part of the mafia conspiracy…’ and then in the next sentence he states with certainty that I am a mafia man.”

Delia’s words carried weight, Vassallo explained. “This is Manuel Delia, who recently wrote a book with John Sweeny and Carlo Bonini and who is making himself out to be an authority on mafia matters, saying that I am part of the mafia.”

At times visibly emotional, Vassallo also categorically denied ever pocketing any money from government employ.

Answering a question from his lawyers, he said: “The fact is that I am not a government employee, and I am not effectively contracted to do this work by the government. The 416bis which he says applies to me, only applies to public officials and he is trying to make it fit his narrative.”

Vassallo said that just because the government advertises with MaltaToday does not mean that he is a government employee.

“I never accepted a government salary, unlike the other party,” he said in a pointed reference to Delia’s work for former PN minister Austin Gatt.

Vassallo was clearly appalled at the implication that he was involved in the murder. “Some of my earliest memories involve Daphne Caruana Galizia. I used to work with her as a sub editor for several years. For 25 years, I worked with her as a journalist. This is how long I’ve known her… and I’m supposed to have been involved in her murder.”

Vassallo accused Delia of undermining his credibility as a journalist “in front of the whole world”, going on to explain that the article had also caused social repercussions on him.

“This man who is so influential on crowds of people… I was scared to attend protests in Valletta because I was concerned about the possibility of revenge attacks against me being made by people who associated me with the murder,” Vassallo said.

Vassallo was assisted by lawyer Edward Gatt. Lawyer Andrew Borg Cardona represented Delia.

The case will continue in March.

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