Police charge BirdLife activist who accompanied Packham to Mizieb

BirdLife activist Nimrod Mifsud accompanied BBC presenter Chris Packham as he attempted to walk through Mizieb and speak to a hunter.

Video still from 'Massacre on Migration', with a hunter, left, telling Chris Packham, right, and Nimrod Mifsud to stop filming the Mizieb environs.
Video still from 'Massacre on Migration', with a hunter, left, telling Chris Packham, right, and Nimrod Mifsud to stop filming the Mizieb environs.

A BirdLife activist from Gzira, Nimrod Mifsud, was charged with trespassing on land in Mizieb that hunters claim is a reserve accorded to them by agreement with the government back in 1986.

Mifsud was accompanying BBC presenter Chris Packham back in the spring of 2014, while the naturalist attempted to interview hunters.

Mifsud was charged with trespassing in Mizieb and exercising a pretended right on 25 April.

A court today heard the chief executive of hunters’ lobby FKNK, Lino Farrugia claim that public land in Mizieb and l-Ahrax tal-Mellieha are “hunting reserves” and only accessible to hunters during an open season thanks to an exclusive agreement between the FKNK and former Labour Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici back in 1986.

Police have told the court that Mifsud as well as BBC presenter and naturalist Chris Packham and a cameraperson, “illegally” entered Mizieb. Packham and his crew were filmed walking into Mizieb before he was confronted by a group of hunters demanding that the cameras are switched off.

Subsequently, Packham was summoned to the ALE police headquarters and questioned for five hours after police had acted on complaints by the FKNK that the BBC presented had breached hunters’ privacy.

Summoned to testify against Nimrod Mifsud, Lino Farrugia told Magistrate Charmaine Galea that the land in Mizieb was reserved for hunters in the open season thanks to an agreement signed between the hunters and former Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici on April 11, 1986. “The agreement was confirmed in October 1989 by (former deputy prime minister) Guido de Marco, while in 2010 Mifsud Bonnici confirmed this agreement during a current affairs programme,” he said.

In exchange, FKNK are tasked with “administering” the area.

The FKNK official also said that in February 2011, then-BirdLife CEO Paul Debono wrote to the Government Property Davison complaining that the land in Mizieb ought not to be reserved exclusively to hunters, but conversely should be open to the public.

However, the government wrote back quoting the 1986 agreement, and underlining that the land in Mizieb was a hunting reserve.

Lino Farrugia also argued that BirdLife had struck a similar agreement when it was given two nature reserves which are inaccessible to the public.

Taking umbrage at Packham’s “intrusion” in Mizieb, Farrugia argued the BBC presenter he only went there in an effort to shed a bad light on Maltese hunters.

“My opinion is that Packham came to film the ‘millions of slaughtered birds’ but he was so disappointed at not seeing anything wrong, that he resorted on creating a hassle by filming hunters,” Farrugia said. 

Earlier during the sitting, two hunters, Kenneth Sciberras and Robert Booker, told the court that on April 25, Mifsud had entered Mizieb together with Packham, a camera person and two other foreign crew members.

“Upon seeing them, I called the police because they were trespassing. I always abided by the law, and I called the police because everyone knows that they are against hunters.”

“I was going to appear on camera around the world and I did not want to,” Booker said.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell, the hunters confirmed that even though five people “trespassed in Mizieb,” criminal action was only instituted against Mifsud.

The case was originally deferred due to an application by FKNK.

Lawyer Stephen Tonna Lowell was defence counsel while Lawyer Kathleen Grima appeared in parte civile for FKNK. Kathleen Grima is a lawyer with the firm of Emmanuel Mallia & Associates, the firm founded by home affairs minister Manuel Mallia.