Every Thursday, when we are lucky enough to be working on time, I get in contact with Bertu to discuss the weeks’ toon. I am eternally grateful to the blogosphere to have made me cross paths with Bertu who can read the image in my mind without any difficulty. I must admit that every week I am baffled at the way our teamwork works smoothly and we manage to churn out cartoon after cartoon even in the driest of newsweeks.
This week was not particularly dry and the Mouse at Mater Dei provided all the fodder a satirsit could wish for. Working late (for a change), Bertu finalised the last touches of the toon on Saturday morning and we sent the above toon with the above caption to Noel Grima, editor of the Sunday version of the Indy. Shortly after the reply came back and for the first time Noel was telling us that something might be libellous. What? We asked… then he pointed out… the RAT in the caption might be taken as being a direct reference to Minister Dalli.
Now to begin with, let me be clear that I believe that Mr Grima was perfectly right about the possible interpretations that the cartoon as sent might have given rise to. I am not, in any way, contesting Mr Grima’s consideration and his right and duty as editor of the paper. I would also like to make clear from the start that neither myself, nor Bertu, had any intention of calling Minister Dalli a rat. All the more so since, as can be seen from the accompanying article, we both found it rather comical that somebody would be thinking of Mr Dalli as responsible for the day to day running of food safety in the canteen.
So. That brings us back to what I shall call, for want of a better word and without wanting to put Mr Grima in a bad light, preventive censorship. We changed the caption to read “Can’t Make Head or Tail” and that was it. No one was harmed. (Yeah – no animal was harmed in the making of this toon – except maybe a mouse).
The question I’d like to pose, while taking full and only responsibility for the toon as it appears in this post with the caption it was should anybody (particular Minister Dalli) choose to sue me for its content, is the following: Is it right that this kind of political satire might still questionably fall within the parameters of what is considered libellous in the country? Surely it should be evident to an intelligent reader, and I hope that a Minister is considered an intelligent reader, that this is a cartoon playing on the facts and not meant to insult personally. The play on words relates to the expression “Every dog has his day”. It was ideal because we could switch the rat for the dog and Dei for Day.
At the same time we wanted to include Minister Dalli just for what he would think would be the right reasons. We were questioning the sanity of anyone trying to implicate Dalli in the matter. The joke was not on him but on the hapless Times of Malta commentators who Daphne has resorted to calling Blokkerz and who ABC seems to enjoy provoking so much in his pseudo blog.
It’s just a question I had. I do not intend to provoke anyone by publishing this. Least of all Mr Grima who as I said rightly preferred to be cautious and avoid dubious interpretations and their consequences. I am here questioning the dubious interpretations as I have many times earlier in my blog with regard to the use of libel threats to bully people into silence.
The Disclaimers That Apply
Let me spell it in black and white. The cartoon version published above is being published by myself Jacques Rene Zammit on J’accuse without the permission of the cartoonist known as Bertu. It is not the version that appeared on TMIS because that version is the corrected version that was considered safe. I take full responsibility for the toon and should anyone want to sue me for libel my address is:
22, Rue de Bragance, Luxembourg L1255
My maltese law may not be up to scratch after four years away but should we be talking criminal libel I guess you have to follow the principle of actor sequitur forum rei… can’t be bothered to look up the exact Latin expression but I am sure if Daphne is around and back from Pantelleria she could give me a hand on that one.
On the other hand. Think again… criminal libel? For this? Might as well introduce Marshal Martial Law (cheers to El Rev for pointing out blooper)!
Have a good one and sorry for the scarce posting recently but work and life have this nasty habit of sneaking up and covering you with “catching up” business. A bien tot!