Court calls for better protection of journalists as sports correspondent's alleged attacker charged with stalking

A protection order in favour of a sports reporter was imposed as the court maintained that it was 'pointless' to hold days of mourning if one of them is killed, if protection was not provided to all journalists in the first place

A court has called for better protection of journalists, as it imposed a protection order in favour of a sports reporter, saying that otherwise, holding days of national mourning after one of them is killed is an exercise in futility.

This was said by Magistrate Joseph Mifsud as he banned a man who, days after allegedly physically attacking a sports journalist, was caught photographing the same reporter at a football match, from entering all sports grounds for two years.

45-year-old Francis Muscat from Pembroke is accused of grievously injuring Atvin Monseigneur on 23 September near the Luxol Grounds. He is also accused of causing Monseigneur to fear he would be physically attacked, harassing, insulting him and relapsing.

When that case was called last Wednesday, prosecuting police inspector Nikolai Sant explained how Monseigneur informed him that the accused had photographed him at work in the commentary box on Saturday 4 November, at Hamrun's Victor Tedesco Ground.

Inspector Sant asked the court to give the journalist all the protection it could at law.

The defence, without conceding anything on the merits or the alleged incident, declared that it would have no problems with a protection order, but argued that there was no justification for changes to the accused's bail conditions in view of the fact that he had always turned up for his court sittings.

The court, presided by magistrate Joseph Mifsud – himself a former journalist - ruled that whilst it was true that the accused was innocent until proven guilty, the court felt that it could not give due weight to the report by the prosecuting officer.

“The court feels it must not only protect the complainant journalist, but all journalists who in some way or another work in our country. If our courts do not give this protection to journalists, who are one of the leading pillars of democracy in our nation, it would be pointless to hold days of mourning and to fly flags at half mast after one of them is killed. Protection must be provided to journalists as soon as the need arises and not after it is too late.”

The court upheld the request for the protection order, prohibiting the accused from approaching Monseigneur, following his movements or molesting him.

He was also banned from entry into all sporting facilities in Malta and Gozo for a period of a year.

A breach of a protection order makes an offender liable to the payment of a fine of €2,329 or imprisonment for up to six months, or both fine and imprisonment.

The case continues in January.

Inspector Nikolai Sant is prosecuting, while lawyer Kathleen Grima is defence counsel. Lawyer Vince Micallef appeared parte civile for Monseigneur, who was present in today's sitting.

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