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€24 million in damages. A company in Gela files requests against three newspapers for defamation

The IGC had a sub contract revoked while working on sites stricken by the Abruzzi earthquake. Corrieredella Sera, La Stampa and Il Tempo wrote that it had no anti-mafia certification

Twenty-four million and three hundred thousand euros in damages. It is the amount of damages requested by the ImpresaGeneraleCostruzione from Gela to the newspapers Corrieredella Sera, La Stampa and Il Tempo for three news articles that indicated the company’s omissions in the anti-mafia certifications while performing sub contracted works in the earthquake stricken Abruzzi region. The IGC considered these articles to be seriously defamatory and has therefore sued for damages, through the Civil Court of Gela, the publishers, the authors of the articles and the responsible editors (for a total of seven journalists). The articles were published in 2009. The case began in 2010. The first ruling is expected by February 2015.

The same company by way of damages that would have been suffered by the company itself and its members, interfering with their reputation and consequently reducing the turnover, calculated the compensation amount. The articles published in mid-October of 2009 reported that, in September, the Anti-Mafia Investigation Department had delivered a report to the Prosecutor of the Republic of L’Aquila which showed that until the spring before the company was not in possession of the anti-mafia certificate and that one of the IGC members, six years before, had been investigated in the context of an investigation into the mafia of the city of Gela. News on the irregular position of the company circulated from July 28th: in a parliamentary enquiry, the MP GiuseppeLumia, explicitly citing the IGC, asked whether the government intended to “take measures to prevent companies without the legality requirements to participate in the works of reconstruction”. In September, the chief prosecutor Alfredo Rossini made an inspection on the construction site of Bazzano where the business of Gela was finishing sub contracted works worth 160’000 euros on behalf of Edimel, a temporary grouping of businesses winner of a tender offer by the ProtezioneCivilefor works of consolidation needed after the earthquake of 6th April 2009. A few weeks later, on October 4th, the award of the work to the IGC was revoked.

The articles brought to light these elements and reported the social alarm about the possible mafia infiltration in contracts for the reconstruction after the earthquake. On October 23rd, a few days after the publication of the articles, the lawyers of the company reacted by sending to the newspapers a long denial, denying any wrongdoing, attaching certificates of pending suits of each shareholder to certify the correctness of their position, claiming that they were, if anything, victims of the Mafia. They argued that, in their view, the publication of such information was “unlawful” since it was based on an anti-mafia note which, by its nature, should have been reserved. As for the anti-mafia certificate, the IGC lawyers pointed out that its release had been suspended “only in the second half of July, for appropriate inquiries”, which were then successfully concluded.

A year later, the Gela company sued for damages the three newspapers and seven journalists: the chief editor of the Corrieredella SeraFerruccio De Bortoli and the judicial reporter FiorellaSarzanini; the chief editor of the newspaper La Stampa, Mario Calabresi, and the reporter Guido Ruotolo; the editors of Il Tempo, Roberto Arditti and Mario Sechi, who followed one another at the time, and the chronicler of the Abruzzi newsroom Angela Baglioni. The citation points out, as an aggravating circumstance, the non-publication of the correction: “an inexplicable and unjustifiable refusal of publication of a correction on the part of all three news outlets.” The journalist Angela Baglioni, reporter for Il Tempo in Pescara, sued jointly and severally with her newspaper for the amount of 2.5 million euros, has argued that the newspaper had indeed published the denial: on October 29th, 2009 with the title “IGC has the anti-mafia certificate”, both on the print edition and on the online edition, also quoting along a few lines of the text.

For months Angela Baglioni has been awaiting the trial with growing distress. Indeed, because of the economic crisis, the newspaper has closed down the Pescara offices and she, along with other journalists, will be placed in forced assistance (cassaintegrazione) from January 1st. She will probably lose her job.

“According to the company agreements – she tells Ossigeno – I should continue to have a legal cover from the newspaper, but I fear the economic difficulties reported by the publishing company. They worry me a lot. I believe I have done my job properly and, among other things, I find it odd that these entrepreneurs have asked for damages through the Civil Court without having first submitted a criminal complaint in order to ask for the facts to be established. I know that this is possible, but the straightforward way of doing things is the one I’m pointing out.”

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