A court has thrown out two libel cases instituted by Nationalist MP Toni Bezzina over reports in newspapers Kullħadd and L-Orizzont on works at the Zurrieq PN club.
The cases were instituted against L-Orizzont editor Josef Caruana and Kullħadd editor Toni Abela.
The two articles in question were published in May 2012 and concerned Mr Bezzina, who at the time was employed by the Public Works Department and who had been investigated by the Resources Ministry.
Kullħadd had reported how a number of government employees within the Resources Ministry were carrying out maintenance works at the Zurrieq PN club, for which Mr Bezzina served as president.
Mr Bezzina could not use public funds for partisan purposes, the newspaper stressed.
Back in March 2012, a few days before the Local Council elections, Mr Bezzina had asked his department's foreman Joseph Borda to source some workers who would be ready to paint over the Zurrieq club's walls after work hours. Mr Borda had consequently sourced three employees.
The workers used materials provided by Mr Bezzina. When he eventually asked Mr Borda how much the workers were asking in payment, he was told that they did not want to be paid.
After Kullħadd had published the story stating that the maintenance works were being carried out during working hours, Mr Bezzina was asked by his superiors to provide an explanation.
However, one of the three workers - Charles Curmi - testified that he was forced to sign a document which he disagreed with since it stated that the workers went to the club out of their own free will. Mr Curmi, however, insisted that they did so because they were told to do so by Mr Borda.
The workers were subsequently brought before a notary by Mr Borda and asked to verify the contents of the document through a sworn affidavit, which one of the workers, Paul Inguanez, testified that he signed at the Labour Party's general headquarters.
Both Mr Curmi Mr Inguanez, said that their working hours at the time extended to 4.30pm and that therefore the works were carried out during working hours.
Magistrate Francesco Depasquale held that the Kullħadd reports therefore constituted fair comment and the newspaper was fulfilling its duties by reporting news involving a public person.
Given the information was correct, it could therefore not be deemed libelous or defamatory.
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