Times of Malta will not be taking any action against journalist Ivan Camilleri following allegations by MaltaToday that he shoplifted ‘highly-priced goods’ from a supermarket.
“Having spoken to the journalist in question as well as to two of the supermarket’s directors separately, we believe the incident in question was misconstrued by Malta Today’s managing editor Saviour Balzan,” Times managing director Michel Rizzo and editors Herman Grech, Bertrand Borg and Mark Woods said in a joint statement. “We have been assured by both directors that this was nothing more than an innocent oversight at the cashier’s desk.”
“We stand by our journalist and will defend him and all other colleagues from personal attacks.”
In an article yesterday, Balzan wrote that staff manning the CCTV of a Naxxar supermarket, later named as Valyou, alerted the supermarket’s management to Camilleri’s shoplifting and that a company official confronted the journalist.
However, Camilleri said he had merely placed some small items into his shopping cart by mistake before passing them through the counter for payment along with the rest of his family’s shopping.
“As I was leaving, one of the cashiers asked me about the items in question,” he said. “I immediately realised I had forgotten some items, excused myself for the mishap and paid there and then for the items.”
Valyou owner Ray Mintoff then told MaltaToday that he had personally confronted Camilleri about the incident and that the Times journalist admitted to the mistake.
“Look, I can give you a list of people who have stolen from here, priests, nuns… I confronted him after and he was man enough to admit it and I assure he paid back, more than what he had taken,” Mintoff said. “He said he should have known better because that’s what people expect from him. Yes, he paid for the mistake.”
The Times editors warned that Balzan’s article was “littered with malicious innuendo” and appeared to have been written with the intention of misleading readers into believing that Camilleri committed a crime.
“We will not speculate as to why Mr Balzan chose to attack one of our journalists with such fervour, though we will note that it is not the first time that he has tried – and failed – to smear an individual using personal attacks,” they said. “It is disappointing to see the managing editor of a media house use his position to indulge in such behaviour, as it also discredits the good work many Malta Today reporters do every day.”
“One hopes that Mr Balzan will in future channel his energy to where it really counts, and speak truth to power.”
Camilleri has said he is seeking legal advice to counter the allegations.