'Nowhere am I referred to as an actor,' Pia Zammit testifies in libel filed over 'Nazi' photo

Maltese actress and Occupy Justice activist Pia Zammit has testified in a libel case she filed against It-Torċa, over a front-page story it published in August in which it attempted to link her to Nazism

Pia Zammit
Pia Zammit

Maltese actress and Occupy Justice activist Pia Zammit has testified in a libel case she filed against It-Torċa, over a front-page story it published in August in which it attempted to link her to Nazism.

The newspaper had published a photo of Zammit wearing a Nazi costume, taken backstage at the Manoel Theatre during a production of the comedy ’Allo ’Allo, based on a popular BBC sitcom in 2009.

Zammit had been cast to perform as the character Michelle Dubois, a member of the French Resistance.

In a sitting on Monday, Zammit told Magistrate Rachel Montebello that the play was about fighting the SS.

“Nowhere am I referred to as an actor. I was on the front page. Just my photo,” said Zammit, going on to state under cross-examination that although the photo itself was not controversial, the context it was used in made it so.

Occupy Justice had received an email from It-Torċa editor Victor Vella on August 2014, asking for a comment on whether the “message” conveyed by Zammit’s photo was in line with the organisation’s thinking.

Zammit had been informed of the email by a friend, as she had been abroad at the time. It was explained to Vella that the photo was a backstage snapshot and that Zammit would send a written reply to his question.

Zammit had then posted a Facebook status, in which she explained the backstory to the picture, before adding that it was “very dangerous to equate a role with an actress’ personal life. Kindly desist.”

But far from desisting, the photo ended up on the newspaper’s front page on August 18, together with an article on the issue’s 6th page.

She told the court how she had received unwelcome comments and insults after the story had been shared. Vella, Sergio Galea Vincenti as well as Tony Zarb had all shared and commented on the story.

The next week the story was resurrected for another front-page appearance in which the actress was accused of offending the public by posing in Nazi paraphernalia, she said.

Instead of letting up, the stories continued. On September 1, the newspaper published an article titled "Pia Zammit and the Swastika," by Desmond Zammit Marmarà.

The message being broadcast by It-Torċa was that Zammit was “actually a Nazi,” by using the picture 10 years after the performance.

Vella’s lawyer, Aron Mifsud Bonnici, cross examined.

Answering the lawyer’s questions, Zammit explained that she was one of the people behind Occupy Justice, which she said was a slogan and not a group. The message was to fight for truth and justice, she said.

“I have a personal email and contact details out there. Why go through the inbox of Occupy Justice?” asked the actress.

The story was made libellous by its labelling of her photo as “controversial,” and publishing it on the front page, Zammit argued. With regards to the August 25 publication, “most of it was libellous - from the title to the use of the term posing,” she said.

“I’m being accused of offending people by posing in Nazi paraphernalia. That’s a lie. It was a photo in my costume and props… I object to the use of the word “pose”. It was a dress rehearsal while costumes were being adjusted. I didn’t stop to pose,” she said.

Meanwhile, a second libel suit against Sergio Galea Vincenti will be ceded by Zammit after the court was told that the parties had reached an out of court settlement.

Galea Vincenti had also written an apology.

Lawyer Joseph Zammit Maempel represented Zammit, while lawyer Mark Vassallo appeared for Galea Vincenti.

READ MORE: Actress Pia Zammit files defamation suit over Nazi sympathiser report

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