Court freezes Maltese blogger’s bank accounts on libel accusations

A court in Malta on February 8, 2017, ordered blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia’s bank accounts frozen after two government officials filed a libel case against her and demanded 47,000 euros in damages.

In a series of blog posts beginning on January 31, Caruana Galizia claimed that someone she knew had seen the country’s Minister for the Economy, Investment, and Small Business Chris Cardona and his EU presidency policy officer, Joseph Gerada, in a brothel in Velbert, a small town near Dusseldorf, Germany. Cardona was participating in a conference in Germany at the time.

In a January 31 press release, the economy ministry denied the allegations, calling them “fake news” and “outright lies.”

According to local media reports, the blogger’s assets will remain frozen until a verdict is reached in her case, which could take years.

In a statement published on her blog, Caruana Galizia denounced the court’s verdict as an attempt to gag the press, warning of its “immense negative effect” on press freedom in Malta.

In a statement published on its website, the Institute of Maltese Journalists called the measure “political,” “exaggerated,” and “in contradiction with freedom of the press and free speech in a free democracy.”

According to media reports, Caruana Galizia has been called “a one-woman WikiLeaks” for her reporting on corruption in Malta.