A new development has exploded in the Caruana Galizia / Cardona debacle, and it’s instilled a brand of fear in the Maltese public that hasn’t been felt at this level for many years.
Just to recap: last week, Daphne Caruana Galizia published allegations that Dr. Christian Cardona, Minister for the Economy, was spotted at a brothel in Düsseldorf, accompanied by another Maltese man, while in Germany on government business. Cardona vehemently denied the claim, whilst Nationalist Party journalist Mario Frendo took his own trip to the brothel in question to engage in a photo identification conversation with two of the workers there.
The story continues to unfold with the Minister suing Caruana Galizia for libel, as well as Joseph Gerada – the EU presidency policy officer, who she claimed was the man with Cardona at the brothel.
In the latest development, the journalist has published a media statement which notifies the press and general public that her assets have been frozen for the amount she may be liable to pay in the libel case. Caruana Galizia wrote:
“Today, both men took the exceptional measure of filing precautionary warrants on my assets for the maximum libel damages that would be payable to them should they win all four cases: €11,865 x 4 = €47,460. My bank accounts have consequently been frozen to this amount, and will remain frozen to that amount until the case is concluded many years from now.
The Minister for the Economy has also informed the television station owned by the political party of which he is deputy leader that he plans to file more cases against me and it can be concluded that with each one he files he will also obtain a precautionary warrant for €11,865. This means that if he files another 10 cases for 10 articles or blog-posts, he can freeze my personal assets in the present and future, for the duration of the case, for €118,650 and carry on in that fashion”.
“The use of a precautionary warrant in a libel suit against a journalist means that the journalist is effectively made to pay a heavy penalty before the case even begins to be heard”
Daphne Caruana Galizia
Caruana Galizia goes on to clarify what this measure means in the context of this specific case:
“While the use of precautionary warrants is not unusual in commercial cases where companies and individuals sue each other for debts claimed, their use in libel suits is unheard of. The use of a precautionary warrant in a libel suit against a journalist means that the journalist is effectively made to pay a heavy penalty before the case even begins to be heard and years before the verdict is reached”.
Reactions from the media personalities
Although this kind of action has been taken in the past with journalists and media institutions in Malta, Caruana Galizia’s media statement has sent shockwaves through the general public, and has been met with strong reactions from members of the Maltese Press.
— Saviour Balzan (@saviourbalzan) February 8, 2017