Yorgen Fenech lawyers included satirical Bis-Serjetà post in court complaint on ‘pre-trial publicity’

Court decrees that publications that “disturb court officials, including lawyers and prosecutors” in their work are attack against the administration of justice

A Bis-Serjeta Facebook post was included in a court complaint by the Fenech lawyers
A Bis-Serjeta Facebook post was included in a court complaint by the Fenech lawyers

A magistrate hearing the compilation of evidence against the alleged Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination mastermind Yorgen Fenech has ordered contempt of court proceedings to be instituted against the authors of certain online articles.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello, in a ruling handed down on December 28, observed that the court felt the need to intervene to protect the proceedings from the “frequent, intensive and generally negative” reporting on Fenech’s case.

The complaint was filed by Yorgen Fenech’s defence lawyers, but the decree is also on based on several notes submitted by the Attorney General on pre-trial publiclity.

The publications complained about also include a satirical post by the Bis-Serjetà Facebook page on the defence counsels themselves, which was submitted to the courts during the proceedings on 18 Decemeber 2020, but not as part of the initial complaint. The post was a reference to one of  Yorgen Fenech lawyers embroiled in an unsolicited online quarrel with Mark Camilleri, the National Book Council chairman.

The articles complained about also include news items from MaltaToday, The Times, Newsbook, Lovin Malta, Manueldelia.com, The Shift as well as Facebook posts by Matthew Caruana Galizia.

MaltaToday is already facing separate contempt of court proceedings over leaked Melvin Theuma tapes posted on Reddit.

She said these included “unjust attacks intended to obstruct the defence lawyers and deputy Attorney General in the carrying out of their duties and cast an ugly shadow over their capacities or characters.”

“Insofar as reporting on the criminal proceedings against the accused before this court, applying recommendations and the teachings of the European Court on the subject, it should only be the media and not private individuals who report about the proceedings and this to avoid as much as possible inaccurate or prejudiced reports on the proceedings.”

As the alleged contemptuous acts were not carried out in front of the court, in order to safeguard the right to a fair hearing and in line with the teachings of our courts on the subject, the magistrate ordered the Registrar of courts to begin contempt of court proceedings against the authors of the publications mentioned.

Magistrate Montebello disagreed with suggestions of a blanket ban on the reporting of the proceedings.

The court was of the opinion that the matter was one of public interest, given Fenech’s vast contacts with politicians and businessmen and his involvement in projects of national importance.

The court also ruled that insults against court officials, amongst them the lawyers of the parties, the Attorney General or his representatives and the prosecutors which are intended to disturb them in the carrying out of their duties were “an attack against the administration of justice and contempt of court.”

The court also reaffirmed the express prohibition of the publication of the contents of Fenech’s phone.