The Labour Party is suing the editor of Nationalist Party organ In-Nazzjon, John Zammit, for criminal libel over reports claiming journalist Charlon Gouder “attempted to assault” PN secretary general Joe Saliba.
Saliba is standing by the reports which said Gouder insulted him after an interview with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi at the PN club in San Gwann, and that the reporter had been “aggressive” with Saliba.
Charlon Gouder yesterday told Business Today that Joe Saliba interrupted his interview whilst asking Gonzi a set of questions over Tony Abela, the parliamentary secretary whose former business connections with a drug smuggler have been Super One’s running story for weeks on end.
In the One News footage seen by Business Today, Saliba’s assistant Berth a Sullivan is seen accompanying Gonzi to be interviewed by Gouder.
The footage shows Gonzi conceding an extraordinary amount of time to Gouder, before being interrupted by Saliba over Gouder’s attempt to hand over papers to Gonzi showing an alleged breach of ethics by junior minister Tony Abela.
Saliba is seen telling Gouder he was being “rude” and “arrogant”. At that point the microphone was removed from Gouder’s hands, as Bertha Sullivan told the cameraman “the interview is over” and proceeded to cover up the camera lens.
The ensuing footage shows a scuffle of sorts between Gouder, Saliba and other PN supporters at the party club, who were shouting to have the camera switched off.
Gouder claims that Saliba managed to snatch the camera away, and after snatching the camera back, Saliba pushed him over.
Saliba told Business Today has denied taking the camera or pushing Gouder: “He was asking a whole number of never-ending questions. We asked him to stop, but he kept on filming what was otherwise a private meeting now, since the public discussion had ended.
“Charlon turned to insult me, and I told him not to be rude. I think what he did, by keep on filming in a party establishment when he was asked to stop, was totally unethical, and a bold attempt at striking up panic.”
Saliba said that if Gouder wanted to hold an entire interview, he should have made a proper request.
Asked whether journalists should expect to have limits on the number of questions asked, Saliba responded by asking whether a journalist can make an hour-long of questions at such events: “If they want an interview they can request on. If it’s a matter of questions, it is a different matter.”
The incident was reported to the Institute of Maltese Journalists and the Press Ethics Commission by both One News and the PN.