Radio station RTK103 on Friday filed proceedings in court to annul a Broadcasting Authority fine over comments made by show host Andrew Azzopardi about far-right candidate Norman Lowell.

Azzopardi had described far-right candidate Norman Lowell as racist and said he would never allow him as a guest onto his show.

Lowell’s party Imperium Europa subsequently filed a complaint with the BA, which concluded that Azzopardi was guilty of unfair and unjust treatment and fined RTK103 €6,410.

Of that fine, €1,750 was for Azzopardi’s comments and €4,660 was for an unrelated incident concerning the radio show host which the BA had previously suspended.

In an application before the First Hall of the Civil Court against the Broadcasting Authority and its Chief Executive Joanna Spiteri, the board of directors of RTK103’s parent company, Beacon Media Group chairman Franco Curmi and editor Kevin Papagiorcopulo asked the court to nullify all proceedings and decisions taken by the defendants arising from Azzopardi’s on-air declaration.

The radio station argued that that the complainant and the alleged victim were not the same person. They pointed out that the BA’s chief executive had declared that the fine had been imposed because Azzopardi’s declaration was “threatening towards the Authority,” while the party claiming to have suffered harm was Norman Lowell, and not the BA.

Lawyers Stefano Filletti and Maurice Meli also pointed out that the complaint had not been filed by Lowell, but by Imperium Ewropa, which Azzopardi had not mentioned in the sanctioned remark.

They also complained that instead of investigating Imperium Ewropa’s complaint, the BA had decided to proceed with a case against the station and issued charges to this effect. In doing so, Spiteri had failed to observe the principles of natural justice as well as mandatory procedural requirements, which rendered the administrative action an abuse of the Chief Executive’s powers. 

They also told the court that the charges were issued against RTK103, which had no juridical personality or legal standing, and that the subsidiary legislation on which the proceedings were meant to have been based, did not even exist.

The lawyers also contested the composition of the BA board that heard its case, accusing it of being the judge, jury, and executioner. The BA’s CEO, Spiteri, had effectively prosecuted the case despite also being a witness in it, given she was being interviewed by Azzopardi when he made the remarks. This, they said, breached the most basic principle - that of not deciding on its own case.

The BA board secretary, Adriano Spiteri, was previously an active member of Imperium Ewropa – something the complainants said the BA was aware of. Spiteri had brushed this off by saying that he was no longer a member, the complainants said.

The lawyers also noted that the BA had fined the station and host for having posed a hypothetical scenario that did not take place. The BA had selectively quoted from Azzopardi’s words in its charges and omitted a sentence that clearly showed that he was asking about a scenario on the BA’s directives which are not yet in place.

They also pointed out that Lowell was convicted of inciting racial hatred by a court of appeal and that a separate court had also concluded that any reasonable reader could derive racism, xenophobia and hatred from the far-right candidate’s political messages. Azzopardi’s comment was based on value judgment and the BA’s decision breached his freedom of expression.

Moreover, the BA had in the past fined TV stations that hosted Lowell, while it was now insisting that he should be hosted on Azzopardi’s show.

While also complaining that the fine was exorbitant, the radio station called on the court to annul the BA’s decision and declare that the authority and its CEO had acted in bad faith.


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