A man who told Maltese Muslim activist Sara Ezabe to “go fuck herself” and “fuck off back to your country” on Facebook has been cleared of inciting racial hatred.
Ezabe, 21, had reported Brandon Bartolo to the police after reading a distasteful comment he had posted about her on the Facebook group run by the Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltain political party.
Bartolo’s comment read: “Tmur tihdu fox kemm anda … awnhekk edin pajjizna .. ahna religjon wihed biss … huma guests iridu jimxu al ligijiet tagna … ma jogobomx?? Fuck off back to your country!” (“She can go fuck herself…we are in our own country here…we only have one religion…they are guests and must abide by our laws…if they don’t like it?? Fuck off back to your country!”)
Bartolo’s comment was written in the context of a European Court ruling that employers were allowed to ban its staff from wearing Islamic headscarves and other religious symbols at work. His comment was factually inaccurate given that Ezabe, who was recently honoured by Forbes, is Maltese.
Yet magistrate Joe Mifsud dismissed Ezabe’s claim that the comment amounted to inciting racial hatred, and ruled that Bartolo was merely exercising his right to express his opinion.
“Whether you agree with his opinion or not or the words he used to express this opinion, the court’s opinion is that this did not result in damage, annoyance or offence to others,” Mifsud was quoted as saying by MaltaToday.
“Even if we disregard the mediocrity of the Facebook comments, many of them can be taken as an exercise of freedom of expression, although some do go beyond the confines of freedom of expression.”
“When one extreme comment is made, you start to see others growing emboldened and encouraged to do the same, by firing off comments recklessly, without attention, measure and limits… dragged by the delirious and mistaken belief that they have the right to say what they like, how they like and however they feel they should say it. This is where the role of Facebook page administrators come in.”
“Contrary to what a number of individuals think, in a democratic society one cannot say all they want and feel. There are limits established by law that must be observed. The right of commentators to comment may surpass the limits of mediocrity, but never those established in the law.”