Former Labour mayor loses libel over PN’s Taghna Lkoll mock sticker album

Former St Paul's Bay mayor's libel suit dismissed after court argued that as a politician his actions were subject to far higher scrutiny than that of the man on the street

The libel suit against former PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami and the PN itself was thrown out by the court
The libel suit against former PN deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami and the PN itself was thrown out by the court

Nationalist MP Beppe Fenech Adami and the Nationalist Party have won a libel suit filed against them by former St Paul’s Bay mayor Mario Salerno (PL) over his inclusion in a mock ‘sticker album’ on Labour appointees.

Salerno, president of the Malta Organic Agriculture Movement, had been made chairman of the government authority on organic farming in 2013.

In his suit, he claimed that comments by Fenech Adami, then PN deputy leader for party affairs, that the people in the sticker album were “profiting from the government”, that they had “grabbed as much as they could” and that they were being “paid phenomenally” or receiving “luxurious perks”, were untrue allegations.

In his judgment on the matter, magistrate Francesco Depasquale observed that the complainant was an ex-mayor and had contested elections on a PL ticket, being appointed Chairman of the Malta Organic Agriculture Movement in June 2013.

The following May, he had been included in the sticker album titled “Malta Taghna Lkoll-Official Sticker Album” which featured over 200 individuals who had somehow profited from the Labour administration.

Salerno had filed for libel the day after learning about the album from a TV news bulletin. He was unable to produce evidence about the words actually said by Fenech Adami other than that reported by Net TV.

The court observed that the man had admitted to the court that he had been the Mayor of Kirkop and St. Paul’s Bay. It noted that Beppe Fenech Adami had testified that the press conference being reported on was not about Salerno. The criticism and campaign was about the list of individuals appointed in breach of an electoral promise by the Labour party.

Fenech Adami’s comments were made in the midst of an electoral campaign wherein the PN was claiming that the PL had failed to honour its electoral rallying cry of “Malta Taghna Lkoll” (Malta belongs to all of us).

The comments were of a political nature, made during an electoral campaign and neither had Fenech Adami nor the PN ever indicated the plaintiff as having enjoyed “phenomenal pay” or “luxurious perks” as the plaintiff had claimed. 

The only thing the defendants had done, said the court, was to indicate the plaintiff as an ex-Mayor of two localities and a candidate of the PL having been given a position as Chairman of the Organic Farming Authority - “facts which turn out to be true”.

This was confirmed by an extract from the Government Gazette, announcing his appointment. As a politician, his actions were subject to far higher scrutiny than the man on the street, said the court, dismissing the libel suit with costs to be borne by the plaintiff.

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