Calling MP prostitute ‘no harm to reputation’, Occupy activist’s lawyer tells court

Defence in libel filed by equality minister Rosianne Cutajar insists Facebook insult ‘did not cause serious harm to her reputation’

Equality Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar
Equality Parliamentary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar

The defence counsel to an Occupy Justice activist and a Facebook commenter accused of defaming MP Rosianne Cutajar, has argued that likening the newly-appointed equality parliamentary secretary to a “prostitute” did not cause serious harm to her reputation.

Cutajar filed proceedings against Occupy Justice activist Rachel Williams and Godfrey Leone Ganado, an accountant and occasional contributor to the press.

Andrew Borg Cardona, representing Leone Ganado and civil society activist Rachel Williams, argued in court that the law on libel had changed over the past two years and that defamation had to prove “serious harm to reputation”.

Cutajar had filed for libel last year after Leone Ganada facetiously wrote on a post authored by Williams on Facebook: “Hamalli, prostitutes and call girls have a right to be represented in Parliament.” Williams, the court was told, did not try and stop the commenter but went along with his remarks.

One of the offensive Facebook posts
One of the offensive Facebook posts

Cutajar’s lawyer, Edward Gatt, told the court that Leone Ganado had used “an uncomfortable and unkind adjective”, to which Borg Cardona replied that such remarks were “fair comment in the context of [Cutajar’s] behaviour with particular reference to previous publications about her and/or by her and/or with her consent.”

“What if that adjective had to be attributed to a member of Leone Ganado’s own family?” Gatt replied, adding that the court ought to take a firm stance and send out a message, especially in the context that this was not a one-off remark but an unremitting conduct.

Borg Cardona told the court that Leone Ganado’s comments never amounted to defamation in terms of the law, and that likening Cutajar to a prostitute did not mean that she was one but that her behaviour was vulgar.  “All have a right to be represented,” he said. “Ironically, Cutajar’s portfolio now covers equality.”

To this comment, Cutajar loudly interjected, expressing disbelief at the lawyer’s comments but she was silenced by the court.

Cardona insisted that freedom of expression included the right to be offensive, insulting and vulgar. “This freedom could only to be reined in when serious harm to a person’s reputation existed,” he said.