Casa hosts persecuted journalist, Labour accuses MEP of lacking credibility on press freedom

Labour says David Casa’s defence of journalists marred by his use of law courts to extract confidential sources from journalists who have written about him

MEP David Casa with Turkish investigative journalist Pelin Unker
MEP David Casa with Turkish investigative journalist Pelin Unker

The Labour Party has taken a swipe at Nationalist MEP David Casa, who said his hosting of persecuted Turkish journalist Pelin Ünker was betrayed by his attempt at forcing the disclosure of confidential sources.

Labour said Casa lacked credibility when speaking on the freedom of the press, after his defence lawyer – Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi – used a defamation lawsuit to extract the name of the source that alleged Casa had a cocaine problem.

The questioning, immediately refused by the court hearing the lawsuit filed against Casa by Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi, was intended at asking witness Saviour Balzan, the managing editor of MaltaToday, who had alleged that Casa had a cocaine problem.

Casa was sued for libel by Mizzi over comments he gave to MaltaToday in response to allegations that he had misrepresented his European office expenses; in his replies he claimed Mizzi was “pocketing” allowances intended for paying the office rent. Appearing as a witness in court, Balzan was asked by Azzopardi to reveal the source of his stories.

In a statement, the Labour Party said this request to reveal sources from journalists is ‘unacceptable’ in a democracy. “Casa continuously calls for the protection of whistle-blowers in Turkey and worldwide, but in the case of Malta, he expects to know who the whistle-blowers are so that he could personally attack them.”

Casa this week hosted journalist Pelin Ünker, who faces a 13-month prison sentence for reporting on the Paradise Papers, exposing Turkish officials in high levels of power. 

Ünker made headlines in Malta after her one-year-old son was denied a Maltese visa, with the Government coming out in saying that the decision was taken based on a similar decision taken by another member state.

Ünker met members of the press and activists from Repubblika at the offices of the Nationalist Party think tank AZAD, where Casa said that despite the importance of having proper legislation for journalists, a shift in mentality was requird. “Without true media freedom, without free press, there can be no democracy. Journalists are facing increasing pressure that can take many forms. When all efforts are exhausted they are jailed or even assassinated. This is unacceptable everywhere, but is particularly condemnable when it happens in a supposedly modern European country.”

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