An article about the Malta Football Association written eight years ago by MP Robert Arrigo has been deemed as fair comment by a magistrate in a 35-page judgment.

Mr Arrigo had written the piece, entitled ‘The MFA and the EU’, at a time when he was still president of the Sliema Wanderers football club.

The libel complaint was filed by former MFA president Joe Mifsud against Mr Arrigo and The Malta Independent editor Steve Calleja.

Dr Mifsud had complained that the article, published on May 17, 2005, constituted libel because it made the false allegation that as MFA president he had a political agenda and that he had tried to ridicule the EU and those who represented the Nationalist Party.

Both Mr Calleja and Mr Arrigo argued the article constituted fair comment with no malicious intent, besides being an honest opinion on what was going at the time.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale found that the article constituted comment based on facts, including the fact that after Malta joined the EU, the MFA had introduced rules that limited the number of foreign players.

The EU had considered these rules as a violation of its regulations and had sought the views of the Maltese government before considering infringement proceedings.

In the judgment, Magistrate Depasquale went into a lengthy consideration of European and UK case law on what constituted fair comment.

He said that as MFA president, Dr Mifsud was a public person subject to public scrutiny especially when he was heading such an important organisation. He added that while one might not agree with Mr Arrigo’s comments and conclusions, he had no doubt that what was written was his honest view on what was happening at the time.

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