A court has condemned the publication of exchanges recovered from Yorgen Fenech’s phone, in breach of a previous court order, but stopped short of ordering contempt of court proceedings, given that the publication had not breached his rights.
Fenech was arrested and charged with masterminding the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in November 2019.
The decree was handed down following an application filed by Fenech’s lawyers in which they argued that the publication of excerpts of exchanges obtained from the accused’s phone by the Times of Malta was in breach of a court order and prejudiced the case against him.
The report claimed that producer Anton Attard had turned to Fenech in a bid to improve Malta’s 2019 Eurovision contestant Michaela’s odds in the run-up to the competition.
While the story cited sources as having provided the newspaper with information, the court presided over by Magistrate Rachel Montebello, said it appeared that the exchanges between Attard and Fenech that were reproduced by the Times of Malta had come from information forming part of the acts of the case.
The court had previously issued an order banning the publication of any such information, having also ordered contempt of court proceedings against journalist Jacob Borg over a previous article.
The court stressed that the ban was ordered to preserve the integrity of the case and to ensure that the accused’s rights are not infringed.
She said that it was clear that the Times’ article constituted a breach of this order, adding that the publication of information from the acts of the case was “not investigative journalism, nor was it a justifiable exercise of freedom of expression”.
It observed that freedom of expression was subject to restrictions based on the public interest, which in this case dictated that the court ensured the integrity of the case and the rights of the accused.
The court said it was not obliged to ensure the paper’s right to publish an exchange between the accused and a third party about the Eurovision Song Contest.
Despite this, the court said that it did not find that the exchange had in some way breached Fenech’s right to the presumption of innocence and said it would therefore not be ordering contempt of court proceedings.
It however reiterated that there should be no publication of information obtained from Fenech’s phone.
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