MaltaToday to appeal Alan Camilleri libel over NYE story

MaltaToday to appeal decision in 2012 NYE party libel case

Alan Camilleri sued MaltaToday for libel following reports that a New Year's Eve party was held at the Malta Enterprise offices in 2012
Alan Camilleri sued MaltaToday for libel following reports that a New Year's Eve party was held at the Malta Enterprise offices in 2012

MaltaToday will be filing an appeal after being ordered to pay Malta Enterprise's chairman, Alan Camilleri, €2,000 in punitive damages for libel.

Camilleri had filed a defamatory libel claim in 2012 with regards to four articles relating to allegations that a New Year's Eve party had been held at the corporation's Guardamangia offices.

The reports had been written by senior MaltaToday journalist Jurgen Balzan. The party or event held at the then new premises of ME were observed by more than one person, including the journalist.

Subsequently Camilleri filed for libel as well as filing a criminal complaint against MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan and Jurgen Balzan, claiming the stories to be slanderous fabrications.

The defence had argued that the articles were fair comment and produced sworn statements from other eye witnesses, confirming Jurgen Balzan's account of events.

Camilleri had insisted that he was not at the ME offices at the time and that no such party had taken place. He had produced witnesses of his own, who testified to the absence of people in the building at the time reported.

Yet, no footage from the premises’ CCTV recording was presented as evidence by Camilleri.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, in his decision on the matter, held that although the defence had produced witnesses to the fact that lights were on and shadows were moving inside the building, this did not necessarily mean there was a party going on at the time.

The court said that it “had emerged that although the defendant had been made aware of this fact [the absence of the party] before publishing the first article, he had persisted in making the assertions,” which were not retracted, even after a visit to the premises.

The court thus upheld Camilleri's complaint, holding that the articles did not constitute fair comment. The defendants were ordered in solidum to pay €2,000 to Camilleri by way of damages.

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