A blog uploaded by Daphne Caruana Galizia was not defamatory in Mark Gaffarena's regard since it was based on facts that were "substantially correct," a court ruled this morning.
Mr Gaffarena had instituted libel proceedings against the journalist after an article entitled 'Sleaze: Antoine 'Cavett' Azzopardi is a drug dealer and allowed to run that illegal 'restaurant operation' appeared on her website on June 12, 2015.
The court was told that the article had stated that Antoine Azzopardi, a minibus driver, was allegedly running an illegal restaurant known as Cavett's Palace in premises belonging to Mr Gaffarena and was also probably dealing drugs 'in partnership with Mark Gaffarena or behind his back in his property.'
The court, presided by Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, observed that the issue of drugs dealt with by the defendant in her article was certainly a matter of public interest.
The running of the restaurant in tal-Handaq, limits of Qormi without the necessary permits was likewise a matter which the general public had the right to be informed about, the court remarked.
It was noted that although Mr Gaffarena was a private person, his name had become synonymous with the controversy involving the allegedly abusive transfer of property by the Lands Department, which had even led to the resignation of Parliamentary Secretary Michael Falzon.
The public had the right to be informed of the illegal running of the restaurant in tal-Handaq on premises owned by the plaintiff by a man who had a past conviction for drug possession and a pending court case over drug trafficking.
In the article, a sole reference to the plaintiff was made when it was alleged that Antoine Azzopardi was probably dealing drugs at Cavett's Place either in agreement with or possibly behind the plaintiff's back.
The court observed that the plaintiff had declared that he had transferred the premises in Qormi to Mr Azzopardi for free after the latter's illegally-run restaurant in Mtarfa had been shut down by MEPA.
The court concluded that the facts mentioned by the defendant were "substantially correct " and amounted to fair comment.
Consequently, the court declared that the article was not defamatory and thus rejected the plaintiff's claims.
Lawyer Joseph Zammit Maempel was counsel to the defendant.