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Decree of condemnation (129 Euros) for arbitrary publication handed down to three reporters

They wrote that the brother of the President of the Region of Emilia – Romagna was being investigated. True, but the judiciary act was still secret. The Order of Journalists commented: “a meaningless ruling”

In 2010 they reported the news that Mr Giovanni Errani, brother of Mr Vasco Errani, President of the Region of Emilia-Romagna, had been registered in the books of the indicted. Before Christmas, the judiciary of Bologna notified with decrees of condemnation three judicial reporters from three newspapers –Ms Paola Cascella of La Repubblica, Mr Gianluca Rotondi of Il Corriere di Bologna and Mr Gilberto Dondi of Il Resto del Carlino.

The documents issued by the Judge for the Preliminary Investigation, Mr Mirko Margiocco, (and countersigned by the chief prosecutor Mr Roberto Alfonso), accept the request of the public prosecutor, Ms Rossella Poggioli, which contest the charge of arbitrary publication of a judicial act covered by secrecy protection. The newspapers involved, La Repubblica, Il Corriere di Bologna and Il Resto del Carlino, were indeed the first to publish the story on January 17th.

The investigation was launched shortly after the publication, on August 22nd 2010: the articles reported that Mr Giovanni Errani appeared to be under investigation for the “Terremerse” case, a cooperative that he presided, and which, according to the prosecutor, had obtained an unlawful loan of €1 million from the Region, which was being governed by his brother, for the building of a new plant.

The issue revolves around the fact that Mr Errani was unaware, at the time of his registration in the book of those who are enter the preliminary stage of investigation. In the meanwhile, Mr Giovanni Errani was being indicted for aggravated fraud, along with other defendants. An official of the Region, for the same affair, was sentenced in the first degree under expedited procedure.

The penal sentence issued the payment of a fine of 129 Euros. The three journalists may object and call for a public proceeding.
The Council of the Regional Order of Journalists has described the three convictions as “nonsense”. As the Order of Journalists released in a statement, the news of the fine “is literally shocking…for the times, the content and the logic that should underlie a measure which, although limited in its substance, is as yet incomprehensible. Neither to the readers nor to workers.”

As the Order of Journalists recalls: “the facts date back to almost three years ago, but the ‘harsh punishment’ comes only now when the story already has been told far and wide. The condemned journalists certainly did not invent the news of the opening of an investigation on the two Errani brothers. Obviously someone revealed it the information to them. We hope, therefore, that having the prosecutors been so diligent in the prosecution of journalists for doing their job so well, the same diligence will be shown in the search for the source that caused the leak. Three years should have been more than enough time.”

Furthermore, the Council commented: “in any case, the attribution of the crime of ‘arbitrary publication’ is not justified when confronted with the right and duty of the journalist to inform its readers, once it has acquired information on a story that has an indisputable character of public interest. And we must not (or we should not) make any distinction between the ‘powers-that-be and the poor-man’. All the more for it would appear that the President of the Region has not filed any complaint for the release of the news. It was the Judiciary, albeit taking its own times of execution: three years!”

And it concludes: “it goes without saying that the Council of the Order of Journalists of Emilia-Romagna is fully supportive of the colleagues who have been unjustly sentenced by a measure that has few precedents, and that it will always be at the side of journalists in the battles for freedom of the press”.

The sentencing “sounds like a strong manipulation of the freedom of the press and those who works properly every day to defend it”, was what the Federation of the Italian Press (FNSI) and the Press Association of Emilia-Romagna (ASER) said, expressing “dismay for a measure that aims to hit only information operators, ignoring on the involvement of their sources.” ROM

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