Chamber of Advocates slams Labour media for ‘attack’ directed at lawyer

The Chamber of Advocates has called out Labour Party channel One for what it claimed was “incorrect reporting” which consequently led to personal attacks against lawyer Paul Borg Olivier.

The report by the party’s media said that the Borg Olivier had filed a judicial protest against Prime Minister Robert Abela and several high-ranking figures in the country in connection with the deaths of migrants at sea. But the report did not reflect the fact that Borg Olivier was acting in his capacity as a lawyer representing others, the Chamber said in a statement. 

“When a lawyer signs a judicial protest… he is doing so only on behalf of his or her client, and therefore it is not he or she who has opened the proceedings but the client. The lawyer simply signs the deed as the person who prepared the deed, and the deed does not necessarily reflect what the lawyer thinks, but what his or her client thinks.”

On Wednesday, The Shift reported that two relatives of Mogos Tesfamichael Welday and Filimon Mensteab Ghebremedhin, two asylum-seekers who died at sea in April, filed a judicial protest in Malta’s Courts against Prime Minister Robert Abela, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri and AFM Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi.

Welday’s and Ghebremedhin’s siblings, two Eritrean nationals living in Holland and Sweden respectively, are accusing the government of failing to meet international obligations, causing the death of their relatives.

The Chamber complained that the reporting served to give the reader an unfair impression, following which, Borg Olivier received many personal attacks.

The Chamber noted that although One acknowledged the letter, both the media house, as well as Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba continued to address the issue in the same way.

Taking to Facebook on Wednesday, Agius Saliba portrayed Borg Olivier as someone who was doing damage to the country and said the judicial protest he signed was a “direct attack on the country”.

Highlighting the attacks on Wednesday, Borg Olivier said the Labour Party had launched a personal attack on him through its media and social media “just for doing his duty”.

The Chamber condemned “without reservation” any conduct which in any way confuses the lawyer with his client, and on the pretext of doing so gives rise to unbridled criticism of a member of the legal profession who is only performing his duty as a lawyer.

It added that a “serious journalist must recognise that the role of the lawyer in a free society is to defend and safeguard the rights of his clients and therefore attacks for completing that duty are unacceptable.”

Online hate and personal attacks have surfaced repeatedly since the coronavirus outbreak, triggered by posts published by public officials and government ministers pushing support for Prime Minister Robert Abela’s decision to close the ports amid criticism after 12 people died at sea.

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