Chief Justice asked to give clarity on mediation in defamation cases

In a letter to Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi, MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan said there was little awareness on the part of the judiciary on how to go about mediation in libel cases

Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

MaltaToday’s managing editor Saviour Balzan has written to Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi requesting a review of the method through which mediation relating to libel proceedings is undertaken.

The Media and Defamation Act, which came into force just under a year ago, states that the court shall decided whether there is scope for mediation at the preliminary hearing stage.

According to Article 10 of the Act, cases can also be settled through an agreement between the two parties or through an apology, in all cases without costs or an amount in damages not exceeding €1,000.

“When the court decides that there is a likelihood that the action is capable of being resolved by agreement or mediation between the parties it shall refer the parties to mediation to be concluded within a specified period, after which the action shall proceed if no agreement is reached,” reads the law.

In his letter, Balzan said that this was not being adhered to and that he wished to highlight that there appeared to be “very little awareness from the judiciary on how to act” in this regard.

Furthermore, Balzan stressed that the while the law states that damages shall not exceed €1,000, it was not clear on whether the damages are to be fixed by the court as with ordinary libel proceedings, or if the parties are meant to quantify them themselves.

“It is also unclear if the parties are meant to register their official settlement in the acts of the proceedings, or if it is sufficient for the parties to simply declare that the matter was so resolved – as in ordinary civil proceedings.”

Balzan urged the Chief Justice to convene a meeting with all interested parties in order to find a way forward.

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