Former Times of Malta journalist Ivan Camilleri is accusing his former employer Allied Newspapers of unfair and wrongful dismissal, with internal correspondence reported by MaltaToday within hours after he was handed the termination letter.
Camilleri is asking for damages for being fired in December 2019 based on false claims and accusations. This comes after Camilleri filed a libel suit against MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan over an article claiming that Camilleri had tipped off murder suspect Yorgen Fenech of his arrest, which Camilleri says was a complete “fabrication”.
Camilleri said Allied Newspapers made a number of attempts to dismiss him, which included various accusations. Some of these were prompted by staff in the Office of the Prime Minister or the Labour Party as well as an informal request by someone in a senior position in the company to resign against a year’s salary.
There was also a 2015 board decision taken without his knowledge to terminate his employment because of political pressure just before the story of Adrian Hillman, Allied’s former managing director, broke.
There was also a request by Michel Rizzo, then Hillman’s assistant, now Allied Newspaper’s managing director to voluntarily reduce his pay, and an official letter in 2015 informing him that his services were no longer required and that, if he chose to stay on, his wages will be reduced by half.
In a post on Facebook, Camilleri said the protest was the first in a series of legal procedures against Allied Newspapers and that he would publish evidence to prove his case.
“Two months ago, after 16 years of service to readers, hundreds of exclusive investigative stories and years of resisting, mostly alone, external and internal forces troubled with the truth, some of the top brass at Allied Newspapers conspired and fabricated stories about me to settle what they intended to do for many years”.
The MaltaToday story about Camilleri followed another “fictitious one” published in October 2019, which claimed he had shoplifted a number of items from a supermarket. When this was published, Allied had informed Camilleri that they had looked into the matter and were assured that it was nothing but a “personal attack on him” as Balzan was, once again, inventing stories about Times’ journalists. It then issued a statement saying it stood by Camilleri.
Balzan then filed a libel suit against Camilleri. In December 2019, his lawyers informed him that Balzan wanted to drop the case – this was confirmed by Allied Newspapers managing director, Camilleri said in his judicial protest. Camilleri insisted that a public apology was also necessary.
A few days later, Camilleri said he was called in for a meeting and was informed by the Board that he was facing two serious accusations: one related to the libel case and the other to a breach of his obligations as a journalist with regards to Fenech, who is accused of being the mastermind behind the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and is also the owner of 17 Black.
He said he was requested by the Board, in writing, to give his version of the facts. Camilleri had denied these allegations and requested evidence to substantiate their claims. Less than two hours after the meeting, Camilleri was called again to the Board and informed that he was immediately dismissed.
As this was taking place, his computer and hard drive were removed from his desk, his email account blocked, leaving him unable to access data, information and contacts that he had built up for more than 16 years.
He made a number of official requests to be granted access to his information but these were repeatedly refused by the company, breaching his rights. Despite this, there were others who were possibly involved in criminal cases that caused unprecedented financial damage to the company, Camilleri said referring to Adrian Hillman, who were allowed to take the hard drive when they left.
Within a matter of hours of him being handed his termination letter, Balzan called him for a reaction and published its contents, clearly showing internal correspondence had been given to him on disputed allegations.
In the judicial protest, he called on Allied Newspapers to publicly withdraw all accusations made against him, to ensure that all his data and electronic information was not destroyed and returned to him and to compensate him for damages and unfair dismissal.
Lawyer Ian Spiteri Bailey filed the judicial protest.