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Defamation: Vendola seeks mediation of Storace and the daily “Il Fatto Quotidiano”

At the issue’s heart lingers the laughter still from the phone call with Mr Archinà. The instrument of conciliation that precedes the civil trial is once again mandatory since September 20th, 2013

Mr Nichi Vendola considered defamatory two articles published in the Giornale d’Italia, a daily directed by Mr Francesco Storace, and decided to proceed through the institution of civil mediation. The documents derive from the telephone interception of the Prosecutor’s Office of Taranto, as part of the investigation “Ambiente Svenduto” (Under-priced Environment), involving the Governor of the Region of Puglia and Mr Girolamo Archinà, former external relations officer of the group that manages the Ilva plant.

On July, 6th 2010, Mr Vendola called Mr Archinà and, while laughing, congratulates him for a video in which the manager snatches the microphone from a TV journalist who tried to interview the group’s president, Mr Emilio Riva, on cancer-related deaths in Taranto possibly due to the fumes emitted from the steelworks of the Ilva plant.

The politician from the SEL party, who also described the journalist as “a provoking face”, later apologized saying: “I am ashamed for having laughed at him”.

Il Giornale d’Italia published two articles by Mr Giorgio Musumeci, which titled “Cancer-related deaths? Vendola laughs”, and, for the print version, “Vendola laughs at those who are ill”.

Mr Vendola, who is also a journalist, has considered the two titles defaming and has decided to take legal action against the author, the editor and the publishing company, with a request for damages totalling 40 thousand euros.

The lawsuit was then sent to the offices of the roman daily, arriving almost concurrently with the requests to go to trial by the Prosecutor’s Office of Taranto, and relating to the same investigation, aimed at Mr Vendola, Mr Archinà and more than 50 suspects, including the Riva family (owner of the Ilva steelworks).

The editor of the newspaper Il Giornale d’Italia, who, besides being a journalist is also the leader of the political party La Destra (The Right), told Ossigeno: “When someone files a complaint against a newspaper it is to avoid the publication of news, it is like blocking the printing press. And I think that’s wrong”. Mr Francesco Storace furthermore stated that he had not received any request for corrections.

And as to why no request for correction was made before starting the legal action, the lawyer Mr Francesco Tanzarella, who represents the prosecution, told Ossigeno to believe explain to be unnecessary, as part of the strategy for the proceedings. The lawyer, however, argued the decision to proceed only in a civil court: “Complaints end up into oblivion, while it is not the case for civil trials.”

It is not the first lawsuit that the Governor of the Puglia Region intents because of articles related to that telephone tapping. A precedent dates back to November 15th, 2013, when he announced a lawsuit against the online newsroom of the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano. Ossigeno covered the story. The newspaper edited by Mr Peter Gomez, on March 6th broke the news that it had been received by a similar request of civil mediation, with a request for compensation of 100 thousand euros.

The use of the procedure of civil mediation was reintroduced, after the stop of the Supreme Court after the first attempt of introduction dating back to 2010, with Law 98 of August 9th, 2013. It is active since September 20th for specific issues, including libel. The instrument, which is now mandatory before a civil trial, simplifies the search for an agreement through the identification of a mediator chosen by the parties.

This procedure requires reaching an agreement within four months, with a consequent reduction of costs. The instrument will be active albeit under experimentation for four years, after which period the Ministry of Justice will examine the results. Only in the event that the parties are not able to resolve the dispute in given time, it will be possible to start the civil proceedings.

LDP

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