A court has issued a warrant of seizure over the assets of Times of Malta editor-in-chief Steve Mallia and head of news Ariadne Massa at the request of former and current officials from the MUMN nurses union.
The warrant covers the journalists’ bank accounts and salaries and is intended to recoup €4,000 the union officials were awarded by way of damages after winning a libel case against the newspaper.
The newspaper has not yet paid the damages because it has filed a Constitutional Court case, which 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 appeals court had also ruled that although the facts contained in the story were correct, the newspaper's sub-heading - Patients Swindled In Scam: Top MUMN Official Investigated - could have been interpreted by any right thinking individual as referring to the organisation’s executive when its members were not involved in any way.
In court the journalist argued that the story had not referred to any of the four executive officials and the sub-heading did not identify any of them.
Former MUMN president Paul Pace, Colin Galea, George Saliba and Maria Cutajar had filed libel proceedings, claiming the story defamed them.
The article reported that a nurse and a salesman had swindled vulnerable patients out of hundreds of euros by offering therapy not provided by the State, and leading them to believe it was free.
The story said that the nurse involved was “employed in a managerial position at Mater Dei Hospital and occupied a top post” within the MUMN structures – but did not name the individual concerned even though the newspaper was aware of his identity.
The nurse implicated in the scam was the chairman of a sub-committee of the nurses’ union.
Mr Mallia said: "These officials made it clear from the outset of the case that all they were interested in was money. That they sought this order when an appeal is still pending says much about them.'
The order was signed off by Magistrate Francesco Depasquale.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us