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Defamation. Mondadori sentenced, retaliates against author. The Facci case

Following a conviction in a civil trial to compensate 46 thousand euros for defamation, the publisher has asked the reporter to shoulder the charges

It is shocking for a journalist to find out after the facts that he lost a civil lawsuit for defamation: it is shocking not only to discover that he was sentenced in absentia to pay five thousand euros, but that his publisher – the Mondadori group, one of the largest in Italy – wants to be indemnified by him of the forty-six thousand euros that had to be paid to the promoter of the cause. It is what the journalist FilippoFacci, a signature on the newspaper Libero, and author of a book published by the publishing house of Segrate, has denounced. Facci says that in this story there are some anomalies that he cannot explain, so much so that he suspects a political retaliation.

THE CASE – A lawyer, Mr GiusppeLucibello, considering himself defamed by a few sentences of his book Di Pietro. A true story, published in 2009, has sued Facci for damages, as the author, and publisher too. The judge Ms Laura Massari, of the first civil section of the Court of Milan, in its judgment of 20th May 2014, has partially accepted the request by Lucibello and condemned both the journalist that the publisher Mondadori.

The court upheld as defamatory a few disputed passages of the book and sentenced Facci to pay Lucibello five thousand euros by way of financial compensation and to have the judgment published at his own expense in the newspapers Il Giornale and Il Corrieredella Sera; the court also sentenced him and the publishing house to pay to the promoter of the cause damages of forty thousand euro plus the costs of litigation, i.e. a further six thousand euros. The judge considered that the author and the publisher have not fulfilled the criteria of verbal continence and did not respect the limits to the right of criticism, damaging the image of the lawyer and his professional history.

THE REQUEST – Let us now turn to what Facci considers oddities. On July 7th, the Mondadori law department through an e-mail message communicates the judgement and explains that, according to a clause in the contract he signed, “he has committed himself to indemnify the publisher from any harmful consequence also of a compensatory in nature” and must therefore pay the publisher €46.077,60.

Facci believes this request to be unusual. Despite the indemnity clause, he says, usually it is publishers who sustain court costs and pay out any compensation damages, and also provide active legal assistance to their authors, while in his case things went differently. First, the journalist claims not to have been defended procedurally in due form.

“A few years ago,” he tells Ossigeno, “I heard from Mondadori that this civil case had been promoted, but then I did not hear anything.” Indeed, Facci has not intervened in the trial proceeding and was condemned in absentia. The day after the request by Mondadori to take charge of the €46.000 in damages, Facci retold the story in his column “Appunto”, an almost daily space in the front page of the newspaper Libero. He asked himself: “What would happen if publishers and publishing houses suddenly asked authors and journalists to pay for lost lawsuits?”

“I have received many complaints, perhaps 200, in my career,” Facci added. “Before this last episode, I had been convicted only twice: the first, in a criminal trial, just after a lawsuit by the same Lucibello, for another book on Di Pietro (Di Pietro. The Unauthorized Biography, 1997). For this reason, before the second book came out, I removed the content deemed defamatory in the first trial, and there had been a negotiation with the Mondadori lawyers on the parts at risk of lawsuit: my work was dissected and reviewed for long time.”

AND THEN? – Despite his public denunciation, nothing happened. “With Mondadori – he says – we did not have any more deals of any kind. I did not pay. I’m consulting another law firm to decide what to do. Maybe I will appeal against the judgment.”

THEORY – “Mondadori has perpetrated an almost exclusive discrimination against me. I have been reported of another author to whom allegedly a similar request as made, because he had expressed political views that the publisher did not like. At this point, you ask yourself questions. I never had problems with the publisher: I had already produced three books with it, and it had always given me legal cover. A few days earlier, on June 26th, on Libero, I expressed my reservations about a possible candidacy of Marina Berlusconi. It would seem strange that this whole thing was in retaliation to that fact. I can not prove it. And it would be quite strange, but at the moment I can’t seem to find any other possible explanation”, he concludes.

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MF

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