Former GRTU boss Vince Farrugia was this morning ordered to pay General Workers Union general secretary Tony Zarb €2,000 after he called him a fascist on live television.

Mr Zarb had filed a libel suit after Mr Farrugia said on the TVM programme TVAM on February 24, 2012, that he was a fascist and was inciting people to commit violence. 

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale found that Mr Farrugia's assertion did not constitute fair comment, as he claimed, but was defamatory, libellous, false and aimed at tarnishing Mr Zarb's reputation. 

The court heard that social partners sitting on the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development argued during a meeting over employees with precarious working conditions.  According to the minutes presented in court, during a meeting on November 14, 2011, Mr Farrugia referred to workers who were receiving the protection of the GWU as "rats". 

This reference and the altercation that ensued during the meeting was added to the minutes on the insistence of the GWU, the court heard. 

During the programme, Mr Farrugia said the media campaign attributing this comment to him was a manipulation by the GWU and that is was part of a systematic campaign. He questioned how he could have said that if he was not even present for the meeting. 

However, the court heard that there was no objection to the meeting's minutes, which were approved during the following meeting. 

In his judgment, Magistrate Depasquale said there needed to be a balance between freedom of expression and someone's right to protect his reputation. In this case, he said, Mr Farrugia had crossed the line because his assertions were not corroborated.

He ordered him to pay €2,000 in libel damages. 

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