Editor ordered to pay Silvio Scerri €4,000
The courts have ordered former editor of the Nationalist Party newspaper in-Nazzjon to pay €4,000 in damages to Silvio Scerri, former chief of staff to Minister Manuel Mallia.
The paper claimed that it was Mr Scerri’s political interference that led to the resignation of the Head of the Security Services and his deputy.
The case was filed against Alexander Attard in August 2014 regarding a story that featured in the PN newspaper entitled: Arrogant decisions and political interference lead to resignations.
In the story, it claimed that sources told in-Nazzjon that the Deputy Head of the Secret Service, Mark Galea, chose to resign from his post due to a lack of professionalism in the way the Secret Service was being run. The article stated the poor management had come about because of the way Mr Galea’s superior, Michael Cassar, had been managing it.
It was said that the article claimed that Mr Cassar turned the department into a Labour Party club.
It was claimed that Mr Galea’s problems multiplied when he tried to inform then Home Affairs Minister Manwel Mallia of the situation – when Mr Scerri, as the report claimed, stepped in to defend Mr Cassar.
The Nazzjon article also went on to claim that Mario Schembri had also tendered his resignation for the same reason but that this had not been accepted.
Mr Galea was subsequently summoned by both parties to the witness stand. He testified that Mr Scerri had never actually been involved in the decisions that determine the running of the Secret Service, adding that while he has no quarrel with Mr Cassar, he disagreed with his management style. This let him to return to the Armed Forces of Malta.
When Mr Cassar was appointed to the role of Commissioner of Police, Maj. Galea returned to the Secret Service.
The defence maintained that the article was “fair comment on facts that were substantially true and verifiable”, adding that Mr Scerri’s position as a civil servant meant that he is subject to more scrutiny than a private individual.
Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, presiding over the case, held that no evidence had been brought to support the allegations made in the article, more so that Maj. Galea testified on a number of occasions that Mr Scerri never interfered with his work.