Teen activist drops hate speech charge against online trolls after receiving an apology

PN activist Eve Borg Bonello dropped criminal charges against two people who she reported for hate speech over offensive Facebook content

Teenage PN activist Eve Borg Bonello has dropped criminal charges against two people she had reported to the police for hate speech over offensive Facebook posts.

Borg Bonello had faced a backlash on the internet after she captioned a photo of herself carrying a rubbish bag after taking part in a cleanup at Fort Chambray, Gozo with “Walking back from Kastilja.”

Kelly Camilleri, aged 27, and Ganesh Azzopardi, 20, appeared before magistrate Ian Farrugia accused of engaging in hate speech after using Facebook to lash out at the activist, who had previously also addressed an anti-corruption rally organised by Repubblika.

One post threatened to give her a beating that would “send you to sleep with breathing difficulties” before going on to compare her “venomous tongue” to that of slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia “and her family and every person who is protesting.” Another post said that he hoped she would be "blown to pieces" together with everyone who was protesting.

In the sitting yesterday, the accused pair apologised in court for the abusive language they had used.

Criminal proceedings against two other individuals who had posted similar diatribes will continue in September.

In a reaction posted to Facebook, Borg Bonello said “I had never met them before, and I found no problem with dropping the charges when they apologised. But they had to apologise, and they couldn't repeat what they did. The magistrate insisted that it is so important that this message comes out today: hate speech is not okay, not in a democracy. Nobody should be afraid to express an opinion.”

“The Courts of Justice have again upheld the principle that freedom of expression has red lines. It is not a carte blanche to vilify or attack. Everyone can have an opinion and everyone should feel free to criticise it. But nobody has the right to encourage violence against you for having something to say. Because there are legal consequences for that,” she said.