Malta: Court throws out far-rightist Lowell’s defamation suit against newspaper

Magistrate rejects far-rightist Norman Lowell's argument in court against 2006 MaltaToday article that had blamed his adherents for an arson attack on the house of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

5/10/2015- A court of magistrates today threw out a libel case filed by far-rightist Norman Lowell against MaltaToday, over three newspaper reports that insinuated that his followers had been behind a spate of arson attacks on journalists and charities. Lowell had claimed that three articles carried in MaltaToday on 16 May 2006 had been based on untruths and were written with the intention to damage him, against the principles of freedom of expression and opinion. The night before the publication of the articles, Lowell had held a barbeque at Dwejra, not far from the residence of blogger and columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia, at the time a critic of Lowell, who she described as a “neo-Nazi and a fascist”. That same night, the columnist’s home had been the target of an arson attack.

It was the latest in a series of similar attacks on critics of Lowell’s extremist beliefs, with previous victims including priest Pierre Grech Marguerat and lawyer Katrine Camilleri from the Jesuit Refugee Service. MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan was also the victim of an arson attack by extremists. A few hours after the arson attack on Caruana Galizia’s house, Lowell had posted an entry on far-right internet forum Viva Malta which read “Yes, indeed, I have drunk to the dregs and toasted the heroes in my own incorrigible ways.” The court noted that Lowell had never contested the assertion that he embraced anti-immigrant views and quoted various distasteful comments on the issue which the plaintiff had posted online.

“The complainant, as a leader of an organisation known as Imperium Europa, has harsh and hardline views on the immigration issue and whoever is involved in the defence of immigrant rights and therefore, by right, these views certainly evoke a similarly harsh reaction against him and his organisation,” it said. Lowell had originally filed the libel case against Balzan, MaltaToday editor Matthew Vella and journalist Kurt Sansone. However, proceedings against the latter were withdrawn after Sansone, now employed with the Times of Malta, had made an apology. Balzan and Vella had argued that the articles were justified by the right to freely report facts of a social and political nature, particularly in view of the “essentially racist” politics of the plaintiff and the importance of the right to “fair comment” in a democratic society.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale, citing several local and European Court cases, held that, in view of Lowell’s extremist outpourings,the articles were not libellous but factual. As a political person, Lowell was subject to higher levels of public scrutiny and criticism, added the magistrate. In throwing out the libel suit, the court noted that Lowell’s behaviour and comments he had made on broadcast media were “not in any way acceptable in a democratic society, where diversity and multiculturalism form the foundations of Maltese society, as shown by the very language we speak.”
© Malta Today

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