MaltaToday journalist Raphael Vassallo has sued journalist-blogger Manuel Delia for libel over a blogpost in which he suggested that Vassallo could have been part of the “mafia conspiracy” which killed Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“Some of the more unreasonable ones might even point towards her murder itself… for all the world as if the bomb had been planted in her car directly by the State, instead of by three well-known criminals, with foreign contacts, who are now facing murder charges in court,” Vassallo wrote.
Manuel Delia then suggested that, by playing down the implications of the murder, Vassallo was ultimately helping the masterminds get away with it.
“[Italian law] also makes specific reference to omertà, a form of tacit complicity that is used to help the masterminds of mafia crimes getting away with their crimes,” Delia wrote. “This is where Raphael Vassallo comes in. Unwittingly, or perhaps because he is a part of the mafia conspiracy that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia he perpetrates the myth that arresting and punishing the triggermen resolves the crime. That is how he (and others) cover up for the mafia, thereby being part of it.”
Vassallo then sued Delia for libel, the first ever libel suit he has instigated, describing Delia’s statement as “a malicious, deliberate and unequivocal attempt to damage my professional reputation as a journalist, on the basis of a blatant lie.”
“It is not a decision I took lightly. In the 20+ years I have been writing articles in newspapers, I have never sued anyone for libel; and it was not for lack of grounds,” he said. “It is because, as a member of the press, I am fully aware that I am a public figure; and public figures are (and should be) subject to a higher level of scrutiny than private individuals. There are, however, limits to what can be defined as legitimate public scrutiny.”
“By gratuitously suggesting that I took any part in the (very real) conspiracy that resulted in Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder – or that I am in any way helping the mafia to ‘get away with their crimes’ – Manuel Delia has clearly overstepped all reasonable limits. I have had to accept a lot of criticism, and tolerate a lot of invective, in the course of my career. But I cannot allow this calumny to go unanswered.”
Vassallo will be represented in court by Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo.
The libel comes a day after MaltaToday’s owner Saviour Balzan sued Times of Malta journalist Ivan Camilleri over a Facebook post in which he denied Balzan’s allegations that he had been caught shoplifting.