The Institute of Maltese Journalists has called for a reform of libel laws as it expressed solidarity with two Times of Malta journalists faced with a warrant of seizure over their financial assets before the conclusion of all open Constitutional procedures.

It said it felt the court decision was unjustified.

The institute was referring to the warrant of seizure over the financial assets of the Times of Malta editor-in-chief Steve Mallia and head of news Ariadne Massa at the request of former and current nurses’ union officials.

The order covers their bank accounts and salaries and is intended to recoup €4,000 the officials were awarded by way of damages after winning a libel case against the newspaper.

The newspaper has not settled the damages yet because it has taken the case to the Constitutional Court. This case is still pending.

An appeals court in January had reduced the damages payable to €4,000 from €11,500 after ruling the amount was excessive.

The institute said it was a known fact and the practice that damages journalists were ordered to pay are paid by media houses and not individuals.

It said the warrant was a step back and a direct threat to journalism.

It expressed solidarity with Mr Mallia and Ms Massa, who, it said, were treated as if they were criminals for losing a libel case and called for a reform of libel laws as promised by Justice Minister Owen Bonnici during a meeting with the institute last April.


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