Neville Gafà, has been acquitted of threatening Italian award-winning journalist Nello Scavo of L’Avvenire last summer. The Court presided by Magistrate Charmaine Galia ruled that there was insufficient evidence and that the comment was more a political comment than a threat.
The case hails back to a Tweet made in June 2020 by the former-OPM person of trust Neville Gafa telling Scavo “Stop your dirty business. If not, we will stop you.” The comment was made on a post by the humanitarian NGO Alarm Phone. The journalist had immediately asked on Twitter to who was the threat meant, and who the “we” was referring to in Gafà’s tweet.
Work of Maltese journalists belittled – Scavo
In an immediate comment Scavo noted the judgement and added that “these legal proceedings have allowed me to get to know at first hand the reality in which journalists in Malta live and the climate of continual tension they live in and the constant belittling of the work they do.”
The journalist who has been given police protection in Italy because of threats by the Mafia said that he “will not stop in my support of my Maltese colleagues who have bravely taken on the mantle from the works of Daphne Caruana Galizia and who fight to keep her memory alive.”
The Italian journalist has been following ground-breaking stories on tacit pushbacks into Libyan concentration camps on aspiring migrants from all over the African continent. In his researches, published on L’AVVENIRE and worked both independently and in collaboration with THE NEW YORK TIMES and THE GUARDIAN, Scavo has uncovered a system which punishes humanity for the sake of legality.
Delay to report
In the statement Gafa gave to the Police, he said that his comment was addressed to Alarm Phone and not to the Italian journalist. He stressed that the Maltese authorities will do everything they can to fight illegal immigration, however, he said that he never retaliated or took legal action against the journalist, who according to him, made serious accusations against him.
Today, Magistrate Charmaine Galea observed how Scavo made a complaint to the Police locally after the Police had been informed by a third person.
In her judgement, Magistrate Galea, noted the delay on part of the journalist to report the case. She noted that for a person living under police protection he should have acted faster.
In addition, the Magistrate said that Scavo did not explain how he felt threatened, and his tweets did not indicate that he was in a difficult situation. The Magistrate noted that Scavo did not report the case to the police in Italy, and reported it to the Maltese Police a month after the incident.
The Magistrate said that independent and free media is a crucial pillar of a functioning democracy, however, freedom of speech is a right that must be respected by all.
Therefore, the Court concluded that the tweet was not a threat but a political comment on a topic that raises conflicting feelings. Thus, all the accusations against Gafà were dropped.
Attorneys Edward Gatt and Mark Vassallo defended Gafà, while Attorney Kris Busietta was parte civile. The Prosecution was made up of Superintendent Fabian Fleri and Inspector Lydon Zammit.