Updated at 2pm with Peppi Azzopardi's reaction
A Xarabank interview with a teen accused of the attempted murder of a police officer following a hit-and-run incident will not be aired, a court decided on Friday.
The weekly TV talk show was planning to broadcast an interview with 17-year-old Liam Debono on Friday evening, ahead of another interview the following Friday with PC Simon Schembri.
It was Mr Schembri himself who subsequently asked the courts to stop the episodes from being aired, after he discovered that show producers also had an interview with Mr Debono lined up.
Officer Schembri suffered critical injuries, eventually losing a limb, when he was thrown over the bonnet of an unlicensed Mercedes, run over as the car reversed and then dragged for a considerable distance.
In a court application, Mr Schembri said he had accepted to be interviewed by the Xarabank crew but decided not to speak about the case itself, so as not to prejudice proceedings.
He said he was planning to speak about the effects of the incident on his life, adding that he was only informed later about plans to air an interview with Mr Debono.
The officer felt betrayed and urged the court to stop the interview from being broadcast or call for a balance.
Reacting, the Attorney General said he did not believe the interview should be aired, and expressed disgust at the lack of ethical journalism about sub-judice proceedings.
Magistrate Joe Mifsud prohibited the airing of both interviews, citing concerns about the case ending up as a trial by media and noting that Mr Debono's case could end up being decided by a jury.
Defence lawyers react
News of the Xarabank interviews drew immediate criticism online, with hundreds taking to social media to express their disapproval.
Defence lawyers Franco Debono and Amadeus Cachia told Times of Malta that they were not even informed about the application filed by Mr Schembri, and only learnt about the court’s decision from the media.
They are still looking into whether they will be appealing the decision or taking the case to the Constitutional Court.
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Dr Debono said the court had reached a decision without hearing his client.
"What is clear, however, is that according to the court's decision, neither Mr Debono, nor Mr Schembri can speak out in public. It could mean that Mr Debono's human rights to a fair trial were breached when Mr Schembri and others spoke out in his defence on local media," Dr Debono said.
"It is unbelievable that Mr Schembri is very comfortable with having himself or others speak in his favour, but the only time that Mr Debono was going to speak, he objected. I leave it up to everyone to reach their own conclusions," he added.
Interview had nothing to do with case - Peppi Azzopardi
Xarabank host Peppi Azzopardi questioned how the court had reached a decision to stop the broadcast without speaking to the talk show producers or watching the eight-minute interview.
The interview, he said, had nothing to do with the case.
Do we lack so much trust in the court system and jury that we believe a TV programme could influence their decision?- Peppi Azzopardi
On the other hand, several have already had their say about Mr Debono, while Mr Schembri himself has been featured on other media.
While one part could speak, the other part was being muzzled, he said, insisting that Xarabank provided space to all parties.
Asked whether he thought the interview, irrespective of whether or not it focused on the case, could impact the jurors’ decision, he said that even footage of the incident and publication of Mr Debono's photos following the arrest could have had some effect.
He warned fellow journalists that from now on they could not mention any sub judice case, including that of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The court decision is unbelievable and dangerous, he said.
"Do we lack so much trust in the court system and jury that we believe a TV programme could influence their decision?" he asked.