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Caserta. Too many threats to Tina Palomba, a home-sourced journalist

Forced to work from home and to avoid judicial reporting since, in 2013, outside the Court room, a man told her to not to show herself seen again. The list of intimidation threats since 2006

For the journalist Tina Palomba, reporter of the daily Cronache di Caserta, to work at her newspaper’s offices in Caserta has become too dangerous. The acts of intimidation which she has suffered in recent years are many: far too many according to its own colleagues. As such, the board of the newspaper, for her personal safety, convinced her to work from home and avoid dealing with judicial news. Thus, Tina has been a home-sourced journalist for over a year.

EPISODES – Palomba began to follow judicial news thirteen years ago, when the newspaper was still called the Corriere di Caserta. Since then, year after year, she has received threats and intimidation, which she has regularly reported to the police, but which so far have failed to punish those responsible. The first threat she received was in 2006. “A man armed with a gun – the journalist tells Ossigeno – entered the headquarters of the newspaper and asked to see me. It was on a Sunday and luckily for me I was not there. The man was stopped by one of my colleagues.” Three years later a woman with a criminal record tried to climb over the office window in order to attack her. “My colleagues stopped her – Tina continues – and called the police.”

The acts of intimidation reached Tina also outside the office: in 2011 her car was set on fire and several times the journalist suffered from attempted burglary and various damages. “Not even for the burning of the car – she says – it was possible to punish those responsible. A surveillance camera on a side street shows two people intent on preparing Molotov cocktails. It is not possible to read the license plate number of the car, because the camera was too far away.”

The footage goes on to show the two men delivering the Molotov bombs to three other men who, on board of a second car, reach the car of the journalist, place some cardboards under it, pour flammable liquid on it and set it all on fire. “It was nine o’clock in the evening. Some eyewitnesses – says Tina – saw the flames and the car fleeing at full speed. They managed to read the license plate and communicated it to the police, who spotted the owner and the alleged perpetrators. But it was not possible to condemn them. It was not possible to establish with certainty that it was indeed them to have burnt the car. It was determined that the license plate number detected could have been wrong.”

Another time, in the same period, at three o’clock in the morning, Tina received a threatening phone call. “A voice told me that if I did not stop writing my articles I would have been blown up. That episode shook me a lot.” Even then, it was impossible to punish the culprit.

The police tracked down the phone from which the call was made. It was the phone of the wife of a convict, who declared that his son had placed the call, a minor, as a joke.

“About two and a half years ago – she says – one evening, while I was on the street with friends, two young passers-by recognized me. I wrote a news story about one of them, who did not appreciate it. As they walked away, one of them told the other that he wanted to beat me, and that he wanted to do it right away.” A friend of Tina’s heard that conversation and gave the alarm.

And now we come to the last threat, which dates back to October 2013. “I was outside of the Court room in Santa Maria Capua Vetere. I was just out of the building – says Tina – and when I noticed that a man was following me it was too late to turn back. The man forced me to stop and he told me to never come back there. ‘You do not have to come over here anymore’, he told me.” The man was identified and for that episode a court proceeding is ongoing, currently still in the debating phase.

This episode triggered the decision to make her work from home. From that moment Tina Palomba has stopped following the judicial news and going to the office. Physical threats are a serious matter but, she says, there are also other forms of conditioning that are no less heavy or conditioning.” At our newsrooms libel suits and legal actions for damages that seriously hinder our work arrive continuously. I have always been acquitted from the complaints. I often received complaints by offenders that charged me with unfounded accusations in order to intimidate me and stop me from writing more articles about them. Unfortunately in the area where I live omertà is a serious matter, and because of threats and intimidation press freedom is failing. I say this with great bitterness.”

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