Labour politician Rosianne Cutajar has won two libel suits over Facebook posts where she was likened to a “prostitute,” and a “call girl”.

The junior minister for equality and reforms had instituted libel proceedings against Godfrey Leone Ganado and Rachel Williams over a series of comments posted on Facebook which she claimed were intended to tarnish her image and reputation. 

When testifying during the proceedings in March, the MP had said that she wanted to send out a message to all women that derogatory language was not appropriate and acceptable in a democratic society.

“I was hurt by those comments both personally and especially as a woman,” Ms Cutajar had testified, pointing out that in today’s society much was said about violence, including verbal violence, which could possibly have a negative psychological impact upon its target.

The libels stemmed from comments posted both on Leone Ganado’s own Facebook page as well as on Williams’ Facebook wall, with one statement saying, “Bil-Malti ngħidu QAĦBA” (in Maltese we say whore) and other comments in a similar vein, associating Cutajar to “prostitutes” and “call girls”.

Leone Ganado had been asked about his comment “However, ħamalli, prostitutes and call girls have a right to be represented in parliament”.

“I wrote that because I felt that that was what I ought to write. After all, all groups should be represented in Parliament,” said Leone Ganado, when testifying in court.

As for the reference to Cutajar, he added: “I qualify them as political prostitutes because they are given other jobs so as to keep their mouth shut. The majority of government MPs and persons of trust are political prostitutes.”

When delivering judgment on Thursday, the court, presided over by magistrate Rachel Montebello, concluded that although the term “ħamalli” was not defamatory, implying that the politician represented prostitutes and call girls was a “serious comment” impinging upon her integrity. 

Although the comment was ironic, it belied dishonesty and could seriously tarnish the applicant’s reputation, also humiliating her, observed the court.

Although the applicant was a public figure, subject to wider criticism, such comments overstepped the limits of “acceptable criticism”.

As for the comment, “Bil-Malti ngħidu QAĦBA,” that too, was judged to be defamatory.

When liquidating damages, the court, on the one hand, considered that the degrading comment was totally unrelated to the applicant’s public office and had been posted on a social platform and had still not been taken down. 

On the other hand, the court observed that there had been several earlier instances wherein others had attributed a similar derogatory implication to the politician, besides the various photos posted on social media by the applicant herself. 

In the light of all considerations, the court awarded the MP €300 in moral damages payable by Leone Ganado, and another €500 in moral damages jointly payable by Leone Ganado and Williams. 

The court further ordered the respondents to remove the said defamatory comments within two days. 

Lawyers Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo assisted the applicant. 

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