Daphne’s libel legacy: most plaintiffs still considering whether to proceed with cases
Cardona does not drop garnishee order, JPO says he will drop case
Out of the 12 people who currently have libel cases pending journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, only two – Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia and now Jeffery Pullicino Orlando – have said they will be dropping their claims against the slain journalist.
The Malta Independent on Sunday contacted all those with pending libel claims, with the exception of the American University of Malta’s Hani Hasan Naji Salah, and all said they were still considering their options. Konrad Mizzi has not yet supplied answers.
Minister and Labour Party deputy leader Chris Cardona did not answer a specific question as to whether he would be requesting the removal of a garnishee order he had placed on her in connection with his libel case over an alleged visit to a brothel in Germany.
There are, it must be said, arguments in favour of both dropping and pressing on with the libel cases against Caruana Galizia’s heirs, ranging from respect for the dead and bereaved, to exercising one’s right at law to clear one’s name.
Pullicino Orlando, for example, was the only one to have confirmed he would be dropping his claim, explaining, “I believe it would be insensitive of me to do otherwise, in the circumstances.”
Alfred Mifsud, on the other hand, remarked: “The purpose of the libel was to clear my name from serious accusations levelled at me and that remains a very important objective.”
Here is what the plaintiffs said:
Prime Minster Joseph Muscat
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told this newspaper: “The Prime Minister has rarely used libel proceedings as a tool to stop journalists from voicing criticism (even very harsh criticism) in his regard. As a journalist, he was once sued by Mrs Caruana Galizia. He did sue Mrs Daphne Caruana Galizia and her son for different but related defamatory allegations which were complete fabrications and an attempt to tarnish the reputation of the Prime Minister of the country.
“The Prime Minister is taking advice on the libel case against Mrs Caruana Galizia. Obviously, the most important element is that the independent magisterial inquiry on Egrant allegations will continue and we are sure it will prove that there was not a shred of truth in the allegations levelled against him.
“On the other hand, while respecting the sensitivity of the moment, the Prime Minister does not intend to drop libel proceedings against Matthew Caruana Galizia, also because the Prime Minister believes both sides should be given the opportunity to submit their cases
“Obviously, such decisions are up to the individuals concerned to take.”
Minister Chris Cardona
A spokesperson for Minister Chris Cardona said: “At this moment in time, such personal legal matters are secondary and will be given due attention at a later stage. Minister Cardona, as a member of the Executive, stands with the Prime Minister’s view that the paramount goal of the nation is to see that justice is served.”
I am seeking legal guidance but the purpose of the libel was to clear my name from serious accusations levelled at me and that remains a very important objective.
I take this opportunity to condemn without any reservation the vile attack and murder of Mrs Caruana Galizia which was a frontal attack on the freedom of the press. While having our differences, as Mrs Caruana Galizia herself professed during her evidence in Court, my attitude towards her was always respectful.
Jeffery Pullicino Orlando
I will be dropping the libel case I had instituted against Ms Caruana Galizia. I believe it would be insensitive of me to do otherwise, in the circumstances. Mrs Caruana Galizia and I exchanged not more than two messages over the past month in relation to an Information and Data Protection Appeals Tribunal decision in my favour. I had lodged a complaint about Mrs Caruana Galizia repetitively revealing my whereabouts on her blog in real time in situations which were not in the public interest. She was thus regularly exposing my family, me and my property to criminal attention.
I felt that this amounted to cyber-harassment.
On Tuesday, Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia said he will be dropping the libel cases he had instituted in the run-up to the PN leadership election Delia had filed four libel suits against Caruana Galizia in late August.
Hotelier Silvio Debono, who had filed a record 19 libel cases simultaneously against Caruana Galizia, said: “This is a time for respect and mourning, and not to think about libel suits. We express our deepest condolences to the family.”
The Prime Minister is taking advice on the libel case against Mrs Caruana Galizia
What happened has shaken the entire country. To be quite honest with you, I didn’t even think of discussing the issue with my lawyer. It was the last thing on my mind. Having said that, the lies told about me are still out there for everyone to see. They continue to harm my family and me. The libel proceedings opened were intended to clear my name and I still want to do that; however, I will discuss what my options are, if there are any, with my lawyer.
Joe Gerada, who filed libel suits and garnishee orders against Caruana Galizia in connection with the Chris Cardona brothel allegations, said: “There are legal implications one would need to consider, either way. I will need to discuss with my lawyers before any decisions are taken in relation to the libel cases and so far I have not had the opportunity to do so.
Former Head of the CHOGM 2015 Taskforce Phyllis Muscat said: “Like the rest of the country, I am in shock. This matter is in the hands of lawyers who I’m sure will decide on how to proceed in due course, so any questions should be directed to them. My only thoughts at this time are with the grieving family.”
Office of the Prime Minister chief of staff Keith Schembri has confirmed with this newspaper that he too is seeking legal advice on the way forward.