Seven of the 10 pending criminal libel cases are against journalists, information obtained by the Times of Malta shows.
Three of the seven were instituted by public officials, including the Minister Within the Office of the Prime Minister, Konrad Mizzi, against blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2014, court sources said.
Ms Caruana Galizia also faces another criminal libel case filed by a certain Charles Spiteri in 2015.
The second libel case by a public official was filed in January last year by Marsascala mayor Mario Calleja against the Times of Malta editor Ray Bugeja and journalist Claire Caruana.
The mayor felt defamed by a report of a press statement by green groups criticising him for supporting the American University of Malta project at Żonqor, in the wake of news the company was ready to helpin the building of the new Marsascala council offices.
The third public official to ask the police to prosecute for libel was Neville Gafà, a former Health Ministry employee, against The Malta Independent on Sunday editor David Lindsay. The case concerns an alleged medical visas scam involving Libyan patients and was filed last year.
Mr Lindsay faces another criminal libel case filed last December by the Ramblers’ Association, an environment group.
The oldest criminal libel case goes back to 2012 when Catherine Sammut, the widow of author Frans Sammut, filed libel proceedings against MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan and the author of an obituary on her late husband that had appeared in the newspaper a year earlier.
The other journalist with the threat of imprisonment hanging over his head is l-orizzont editor Josef Caruana following a police complaint filed by Gozitan shepherd Ġanni Attard in January last year.
Mr Attard was embroiled in controversy after he contested the court’s decision to cull his illegal herd of sheep.
The most recent case was filed earlier this month by a certain Maria Dolores Camilleri, a government employee, against Education Minister Evarist Bartolo.
Mr Bartolo had himself asked the police to start libel proceedings against former Nationalist minister Austin Gatt in February 2013, at the height of the electoral campaign. However, court sources said this case was very likely to be dropped.
Alternattiva Demokratika councillor Ralph Cassar is also facing criminal libel proceedings over a Facebook comment linked to the local library.
The request for libel proceedings was filed by Stephen Borg.
Contrary to civil proceedings, where the court is asked to award damages, criminal libel could see defendants go to jail if found guilty.
The government proposal to reform the media law includes a provision to remove criminal libel, a measure long-requested by journalists.
The proposal will still see pending criminal libel cases being heard, however the court would not be able to send anyone to jail but only impose a fine.
Pending criminal libel cases
January 2012: Catherine Sammut vs Saviour Balzan and others.
February 2013: Evarist Bartolo vs Austin Gatt (likely to be dropped).
November 2014: Konrad Mizzi vs Daphne Caruana Galizia.
April 2015: Stephen Borg vs Ralph Cassar.
July 2015: Charles Spiteri vs Daphne Caruana Galizia.
January 2016: Ġanni Attard vs Josef Caruana.
January 2016: Mario Calleja vs Ray Bugeja and Claire Caruana.
September 2016: Neville Gafa vs David Lindsay.
December 2016: Ramblers Association vs David Lindsay.
February 2017: Maria Dolores Camilleri vs Evarist Bartolo.
Bold indicates cases against journalists.
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