The editor of a Maltese satirical page has issued a statement after lawyers of a Maltese murder suspect complained about memes the page had posted.
Following the official complaint by Yorgen Fenech’s lawyers, free speech activists as well as several members of civil society expressed solidarity with Bis-Serjetà editor Karl Stennienibarra’s, who now faces up to a month in jail and a fine of €2,329 if hauled to court over a meme comparing Fenech’s lawyers to the mafia.
In a sarcastic statement, Stennienibarra took aim at the alleged history of the lawyers and murder suspect in question:
“Clearly I was wrong to suggest that lawyers who defect from the Attorney General’s office, allegedly attempt to bribe journalists, and harass public servants on social media while representing a multi-millionaire client allegedly caught fleeing the country after police discovered recordings of him allegedly discussing the murder of a journalist who uncovered his alleged involvement in various allegedly corrupt schemes, and who then allegedly begged for a pardon, are in any way whatsoever associated with organised crime,” he said.
“They are just doing their highly paid, lucrative jobs, and I would like to humbly, sincerely and allegedly apologise for any offence caused.”
The legal wrangling comes after magistrate Rachel Montebello received a complaint from Fenech’s lawyers over a particular image.
Magistrate Montebello issued a twelve-page decree at the end of a court sitting, justifying the decree by saying the lawyers should be protected from attacks or insults as well as to safeguard Yorgen Fenech’s “right to a fair hearing”.
In the wake of the decree, freedom of speech activist Mark Camilleri pledged to pay Bis-Serjetà’s fine if issued by the court, and many were left wondering whether this would have a chilling effect on the future of free speech, criticism and online memes in Malta.