A voice coach was awarded damages over defamatory comments made in her regard in the course of a conversation between two Facebook users via Messenger.

Gillian Camenzuli Kerr, who is also a director of a local singing school, took her grievance to court after it transpired that a former business partner and his brother, also involved in the local music scene, were airing negative remarks in her regard.

Brothers Emil and Mark Calleja Baylis, a composer and music manager respectively, were faced with libel action following certain comments written when communicating via Messenger with students of the applicant.

Mark Calleja Bayliss, who used to run a music agency with the applicant until relations between them deteriorated beyond repair, had alleged that the coach was known to adopt a very strict approach, subjecting budding singers to ‘great pressure’.

Faced with civil proceedings for libel, the respondents had claimed that the applicant’s claim was groundless since it referred to ‘a private conversation between two persons on Messenger’.

The court, presided over by Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, declared that the fact that the comments had clearly referred to the applicant, was enough to render them public.

However, in the case of Emil Calleja Bayliss, the court observed that his comment amounted to an expression of opinion, which he had every right to and that this did not constitute defamation.

On the other hand, Mark Calleja Bayliss had alleged in one such conversation that the applicant had been ‘blacklisted’ both by national broadcaster PBS and by the European Broadcasting Union on account of her excessive pressure in respect of her students, among whom budding artist Federica Falzon.

Yet, the respondent did not put forward any proof to support such allegations other than his brother, Emil, who was called to testify.

The court observed that no representative of PBS or EBU had been summoned to give evidence in support of the respondent’s allegations. Nor had any singers or their representatives been asked to testify.

In view of such lack of evidence, the court concluded that the comments made by Mark Calleja Bayliss were defamatory, intended solely to tarnish the reputation of the music coach. Yet since these allegations were made in the course of a conversation between two, the damage caused was limited in extent.

For this reason, the court ordered Mark Calleja Bayliss to pay Ms Camenzuli Kerr €500 by way of libel damages. His brother Emil’s comments were declared to have been non-defamatory.

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