Malta
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Man fined €10,000 over offensive meme on people with Down’s Syndrome 

A man has been fined €10,000 for posting an offensive meme on Facebook that denigrated people suffering from Downs Syndrome.

Magistrate Yana Micallef Stafrace found Luke Mihalic, 29, from Naxxar, guilty of misusing computer and telecommunications equipment but was cleared of hate crime since it was not yet an offence at the time when the meme was uploaded.

The meme was uploaded on a Facebook group called “Uncensored Jokes Malta” in April 2020 and it appeared that he wanted to denigrate and insult a category of the population that has Down's Syndrome.

The meme had a picture of an unidentified person with Down’s Syndrome, with the caption stating: “Website is Down” “Oooh, me too!”

It was reported to the police by then Commissioner for Persons with Disability, Oliver Scicluna, who said that he received the post from people who felt offended by this meme.

The court ruled that when the accused voluntarily decided to upload this post, he knew what he was doing.

It was his intention to upload on social media a meme that ridicules this category of people who suffer from this particular disability, with the message that people with Down's Syndrome are inferior and do not have a place in society.

“By no stretch of the imagination can one say that this is artistic expression, satirical, comic or cultural. The court considers the meme [to be] a threat to those people with Down's Syndrome that are integrated into a society that is meant to be inclusive,” the magistrate ruled.

She cleared him of the hate speech charge after noting that the law was only changed in December 2021 and that before that, hate towards persons with disability was not a crime.