Controversial Judgement Impacts Free Speech?

There has been significant support flurrying through social media following the announcement that Pia Zammit lost a libel suit filed against the Editor of it-Torca newspaper, Victor Vella. The case revolved around a suit where a photo of Pia Zammit was leaked to the media. The photo portrayed her wearing a Nazi costume, containing two swastika symbols. This was due to the rehearsals of a World War Two play called “Allo Allo”. Some said that the photo portrayed her as a Nazi sympathiser.

During the proceedings, Zammit testified that when the reporter published her photo on the front page of the newspaper, all the readers could see was her photo. The readers were not given a real explanation of the context. For the play, Pia Zammit had landed the role of Michelle Dubois, a member of the French resistance involved in trapping the Nazis and saving the French people.

In the newspaper, there was a two page spread claiming that she was promoting Nazism and that her image was offensive and insensitive towards victims of this regime.

Speaking to the media, Pia Zammit stated that she was called a ‘Nazzista’ on social media. She criticised the newspaper for publishing the photo four times on separate occasions. This criticism extended to social media, with Pia Zammit stating that while she would normally shrug such episodes off, enough was enough and measures needed to be taken.

She referred to her experience as one of bullying, highlighting that such circumstances would hinder people from expressing their views and thus negatively impacting freedom of expression. She argued that stomping on freedom of expression does not necessarily need to include physical violence. Whilst making her case she also clarified that she hates Nazis and calling someone as such is practically an invitation to have them assaulted.

Going forward, this can also hinder other artists from engaging in theatre plays which may be controversial, out of fear that they would be subjected to hate speech.

What do you think about the proceedings of this case? Do you think that freedom of speech and expression in Malta is given the side? Let us know your views in the comments section below.

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