Police union joins TikTok lynching with demand for prosecution for ‘insults’

Don’t insult the police on TikTok! Or the union will ask for an investigation... Police union wants black TikToker who “insulted” the corps charged in court

The might of one of Malta’s two police unions – the Malta Police Union – is being marshalled against a black woman whose TikTok commentary is being paraded by outraged social media users.

The MPU filed a criminal complaint with the Commissioner of Police, because a social media user called the corps “pufta” – a homophobic slur.

“They’re like the Saudi police... they don’t take action when you call to report someone, and instead they give your name to the criminal,” the social media user, a regular for some time on TikTok, said.

The MPU claims the video “contains offensive words and false accusations against the members of the Malta Police Union.”

Slanderous words written on social media no longer constitute a criminal offence

The irony of the police asking itself to investigate alleged insults, will not be lost on those who have accused the force of being lenient with far more powerful actors in Maltese society – politicians mainly.

Additionally, the social media user Mona60000 is non-Maltese, speaks Arabic, outspoken in her own right, and black.

Even Marsa’s Labour mayor Josef Azzopardi has taken umbrage at the “derogatory words”. “Unfortunately, the police must deal with ungrateful people who provoke them and cause trouble, some of whom believe that they are above the law and that they can do as they please on our streets.”

In the veritable jungle of self-made opinions and malicious livestreams, in Malta TikTok has created tiny phenonmenons of social outcasts streaming from living rooms and bedrooms to the late hours, the ostentatious display of personal wealth, and spiteful cat fights between easily provoked users.

The false outrage over Mona60000 also stems from her shrill complaints on TikTok where she accuses the Maltese of outright racism, unjust police scrutiny, and online hate against black people. “Why do you enjoy it when foreigners are killed?” she asks in the short clips so typical of TikTok.

Users who reply to her videos disbelieve her high-pitched, contemptuous complaints.

But the “police insult” video was picked up by Labour apparatchik Manuel Cuschieri. Cuschieri, who recently suggested that Labour politicians would be investigated unfairly by magistrates and police over allegations of corruption, posted the Mona60000 video saying “Unacceptable. Nobody has the right to insult our country’s police. I don’t care if they are Maltese, Gozitan, foreign... whoever takes such liberties, must have steps taken against them.”

The law on ‘insults’

Due to legal amendments that came into force in May 2018, words declared or published on social media with the aim of slandering a person cannot be considered a criminal offence for the purposes of the Media and Defamation Act.

In the case of Pulizija vs Rita Scerri, the accused stood trial for Facebook comments posted against a victim that included insults and profanity.

The Court referred to the judgement given by the Court of Criminal Appeal in the case of Police vs Francis Frendo  (2008) where the Court interpreted a threat as something that produces fear of future aggression. When a person is threatened, the agent must have been exposing the victim to a specific unjust harm.

It was held that the words stated by the accused did not amount to threats, and although they may have been inappropriate, slander cannot be considered a crime. Although the Court did not give a judgement on the first charge, it said that there could be no fault found in this regard. The accused was liberated from all guilt in relation to the second charge. It was, therefore, concluded that she was not guilty.