Yorgen Fenech’s complaints about Bis-Serjetà last month have landed the satirical website in hot water, but that was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the coverage the murder suspect took issue with.
Last month, Fenech’s lawyers warned that several articles and Facebook posts lacked impartiality and endangered his rights to innocence until proven guilty ahead of his trial by jury.
Magistrate Rachel Montebello only took issue with Bis-Serjetà’s post describing Fenech’s lawyers as mafia, as well as articles by lecturer Simon Mercieca which were flagged by the deputy Attorney General.
These are all the articles and posts Fenech complained about.
1. This Newsbook article
This report referred to magistrate Montebello’s ruling which dismissed a complaint instituted by Fenech after MP Jason Azzopardi, the lawyer of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family, implied he was guilty of carrying out the murder.
Although no contempt of court proceedings were issued, the magistrate did criticise Newsbook for their choice of title, describing it as “obviously misleading”.
2. This article by Manuel Delia
Fenech complained after blogger Manuel Delia suggested that his lawyers tried to delay the case to ensure certain evidence was only presented once the Caruana Galizia public inquiry was concluded.
This blog implied some kind of connection between the lawyers’ legal moves and the Prime Minister’s insistence that the inquiry finish by December.
3. This article by Times of Malta
Fenech complained that Times of Malta revealed the fact that he had gone on a trip to Las Vegas with former MFSA head Joe Cuschieri. This report eventually saw Cuschieri removed from his post at the helm of the financial regulator.
4. This article by MaltaToday
He even complained at this MaltaToday report into how former Alternattiva Demokratika leader Arnold Cassola had called out then Energy Minister Michael Farrugia for having met Fenech a few hours after listing Mrieħel in a list of high-rise zones.
Farrugia’s decision allowed Fenech’s Tumas Group and the Gasan Group to build the high-rise Quad project.
5. This article by Lovin Malta
Fenech took issue at Lovin Malta reporting at how over thousands of messages he exchanged with a sitting Cabinet minister were going to be presented in court.
Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis was later revealed to have exchanged several messages with Fenech, even after it was revealed he was the owner of the Dubai company 17 Black.
6. This other article by Lovin Malta
Fenech complained after Lovin Malta reported Electrogas shareholder Paul Apap Bologna’s testimony at the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry.
During his testimony, Apap Bologna confirmed that then parliamentary secretary for planning Michael Farrugia had appointed him to the Planning Board even though he had no experience in the sector.
7. This article by Newsbook
Fenech complained at this Newsbook article into how Electrogas had paid Fenech €2.5 million to interface with authorities and source and organise contractors in relation to the LNG power station project.
8. These Facebook posts by Matthew Caruana Galizia, Daphne Caruana Galizia’s son
10. These posts by Daphne Caruana Galizia’s sister Corinne Vella
11. This post by Caruana Galizia’s other sister Helene Asciak
Magistrate Montebello turned down most of Fenech’s complaints, noting that the assassination of Caruana Galizia stunned the nation and that the media should be allowed to keep the public informed of developments in the case.
However, she urged journalists to be faithful and accurate in their reports and said no one should publicly declare Fenech to be guilty of the murder while the case is ongoing.
She also noted she has no intention of interfering in the way journalists report new information about Fenech and the murder case.
“This isn’t the right time to impose a blanket ban on the revelation of information on the accused and the crime, particularly as the crime is still being investigated and there are other matters of public interest which involve the accused, distinct from the crime, that are being discussed in the public domain,” she said.
However, she made an exception for Bis-Serjeta’ and history lecturer Simon Mercieca, who will both face contempt of court proceedings after the satirical site described Fenech’s lawyers as ‘mafia’ and Mercieca suggested a link exists between deputy AG Philip Galea Farrugia and blogger Manuel Delia.
“Attacks against court officials which are intended to disrupt them from carrying out their duties should be treated as attacks against the administration of justice and contempt of court,” she insisted.
She described the Bis-Serjeta’ post and Mercieca’s articles as “unjust attacks intended to disrupt the defence lawyers and the deputy AG during their work and to cast a dark shadow on their abilities or character”.
Contempt of court proceedings were initiated on the basis of Article 995 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure, which states that any court officer who is insulted while discharging his duties shall be liable to a fine or detention.
Free speech activists have lambasted her ruling as one which displays wilful blindness towards satire, which will ultimately have a chilling effect on free expression.
What do you make of Yorgen Fenech’s complaint?