Labour MP cites ‘deplorable’ Caruana Galizia as reason for higher libel fees

Franco Mercieca: 'Daphne Caruana Galizia should not be allowed to ruin people's lives and get away scot-free' 

Labour MP Franco Mercieca said that civil libel fees should increase to over €20,000
Labour MP Franco Mercieca said that civil libel fees should increase to over €20,000

Labour MP Franco Mercieca tore into Daphne Caruana Galizia, arguing that the maximum fine for civil libel cases should be increased to over €20,000 as a means to prevent her from publishing false and damaging stories.

Mercieca was speaking in Parliament during a debate on the Media Bill – that proposes an increase of civil libel fines from a maximum of €11,000 to a maximum of €20,000.

However, Mercieca said that the maximum fine should be higher, arguing that false stories can seriously damage a person’s career, personal relationships, and mental states.

He described Caruana Galizia as a “loose cannon who is now shooting at her own people” and who is “destroying the Nationalist Party”, and urged PN leader Simon Busuttil to publicly disassociate himself from her. 

In particular, he recounted how she had claimed on her blog late last year that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri had been diagnosed with an inoperable tumour.

“I can confirm that this was a blatant lie. How can a journalist simply make up a diagnosis like that with no consequences? How can it be that Daphne Caruana Galizia ruins people’s lives but gets away scot-free because the courts only fine her €5,000, which she then gets to contest and perhaps only pay several years down the line?

“We mustn’t expose people to negative, irresponsible and deplorable journalism that only reaps hatred and discord.”

Opposition MP Edwin Vassallo jumped to Caruana Galizia’s defence, claiming that the government had drafted the Media Bill as an attempt to shut her up but had to backtrack after facing a public backlash.

He was referring to the government’s decision to scrap a proposal that would have required news websites to be registered with a media register.

“Labour had no problem riding Caruana Galizia’s bandwagon when she was attacking [PN deputy leader] Mario de Marco, but attacks her when she exposes them.”

Mario de Marco called for a national action plan to save printed media
Mario de Marco called for a national action plan to save printed media

‘Need for national plan to save print media’ – De Marco

Earlier, de Marco called for an a national action plan to strengthen traditional print media, warning that democracy will suffer a blow if the industry is allowed to collapse.

He warned that sales of newspapers are plummeting and advertising revenue is on the decline and that, at this rate, media houses will stop printing newspapers entirely and people will no longer aspire to become career journalists.

“I say this with no disrespect to non-traditional media as it is also a democratic tool, and complementary to traditional media,” he said. “We are living in a world of likes, shares and comments, but the consequences is that on social media facts, opinions and speculation often get mixed up. The obvious solution to ensure that professional journalism prevails is to strengthen traditional media, so that the public continues to have a source of well-researched stories, that make clear distinctions between fact and opinion.”