Italy. The most dangerous news from October 2015 reported by Ossigeno
Monthly review of the acts of intimidation created for the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom of Leipzig (ECPMF) with the support of the European Union
In October 2015, Ossigeno has added 130 names to the list of Italian journalists who have suffered acts of intimidation. There have been new grave cases of personal threats against journalists, especially Paolo Borrometi, who has received a barrage of intimidations from mafia quarters, who do not accept what he has done in their land, and which every reporter should do regardless: tell the facts.
However, as paradoxical as it may seem, there is yet another story, which can illustrate more clearly how the freedom of expression and to inform are, blocked in this Country. It is a form of intimidation that is less glitzy yet popular, activated within the confines of law and thus is not punishable. It is the decision of the most representative association of criminal lawyers in Rome, that is the one to denounce to the District Attorney 97 journalists (the most well know reporters of court and criminal cases and 24 chief editors) for violating the secret on the ongoing investigations.
In the past months these journalists have told their readers the absurd results of the Capital Mafia investigation, one of the most important criminal inquiries of recent times, and one which has shed light on the organized crime in Rome along with a series of serious crimes (mafia association, corruption, graft, etc.) for which, in two rounds, over 81 persons have been arrested, among which were politicians and public administrators.
Following the arrests, the journalists referred to details and content from the arrest warrants delivered to those in cuffs and to their lawyers, therefore known to “the parties” and as such free from the limit of absolute secrecy, albeit still subject formally to the limit of publication until the natural conclusion of the investigations. According to the lawyers, the journalists and the papers in question (the most important dailies and weeklies of the country) should have respected the limit rigidly, denying to their readers facts known to the parties involved, even in the face of such an important issue for the public debate. The vastness of the transgression proves alone that such limit, as any limit, has its exceptions and that the norm should be applied cum grano salis, i.e. with common sense, while we wait for the lawmaker to develop it in a more sensible way, as we sincerely hope.
Unfortunately in Italy numerous rules turn out to be punitive with respect to Press freedom (stsrting from those on libel) and others (such as those on the secrecy of acts) are contradictory and allow for instrumental accusations, tangible threats against journalists who publish unwelcome news. It is no chance that it all broke out a few days away from the start of the trial against the 81 arrested, and is part of the maneuvering aimed at presenting the story as mere journalistic fiction. Nor is it a chance that one of the defendant’s lawyers has publicly denigrated Lirio Abbate, the journalist who through his inquiries and exclusive interviews has informed the public and the judiciary of what was going on in Rome, and has a such received death threats, has been the victim of an assault and lives under police protection. Instead of rewarding the journalist, who has gone beyond anyone in unearthing the truth, the lawyers has attempted to isolate him from his colleagues, has complimented the sleepy sentinels, the journalists who had seen nothing. Maneuvers of this kind are nothing new before the beginning of any great mafia trial sprung from journalist investigations. It is physiological. Unfortunately these maneuvers do not elicit the vast and unequivocal condemnation that they would deserve, and which Ossigeno has already manifested through the article “Giù le mani da Lirio Abbate e dagli altri 96 giornalisti” (Hands off from Lirio Abate and other 96 journalists).
These facts prove for many that in Italy the freedom of the press is an unknown right, an empty concept, a nuisance that has to be accepted and contained. It has to think otherwise, when those who accuse those who inform are public administrators, politicians, magistrates. Even in this last moth there have been cases of this kind: a deputy mayor from Sardinia has intimated an online newspaper to delete some articles which accused him of conflict of interests, threatening to sue if the request was not accepted; in Tuscany a mayor has announced to sue six newspapers, without even asking for a correction; in Sicily, another mayor has physical impeded a crew from shooting some footage inside a public school in which a student and a teacher had been hurt by the collapse of the roof. In Velletru, in the province of Rome, the journalist Andrea Palladino, collaborator of Il Fatto Quotidiano, l’Espresso and Le Monde, has been for days insulted and threatened on Facebook by a former city councilor who had been convicted for crime association in the past. Another apparently paradoxical case is that of the two journalists from the known TV show broadcast on RAI, Report: they had erroneously indicated as a defendant in a trial a person extraneous to the facts, but then immediately corrected. The District Attorney has nonetheless asked for their acquittal for libel. The president of a public company of the Ministry of Economics and Finance, which manages savings, has asked the paper BrindisiReport to remove a mock satirical interview, threating to sue for damages.
These facts may surprise those who do not live in our Country, but to have a clear picture of what happened in October, others need to be known, those, that is, which we notified at the beginning and which we naturally place at the top of the list: physical threats. In the order in which Ossigeno reported them: those against Matteo Viviani, an envoy for one of the best known infotainment shows, Le Iene, who has received a text message warning him of a bomb ready to explode in his home; a series of intimidations received by journalists who had already been threatened in the past and are as such under police protection: those appeared on Facebook against the journalist of the daily La Repubblica Federica Angeli, after her participation to a TV show; always through the known social network, those that a man in jail for mafia association sent to the Sicilian journalist Polo Borrometi, who a few days before had received a phone call from the daughter of a mafia boss telling him he deserved to be slapped because of his work, which is evidently unwelcome; those against Michele Inserra, this time the target of a ‘ndrangheta (the mafia from Calabria) henchman who didn’t appreciate the presence of the journalist and his crew near his home. Also Vittorio Buongiorno, journalist for the Latina offices of the daily Il Messaggero, has received death threats from an entrepreneur, subsequently arrested because of corruption in public tenders.
And we still haven’t touched the most serious episodes. Giorgio Mottola, an envoy for RAI Report, has been attacked for the only reason that he got close with a camera to the manager of a big company: he was hit by the man, immobilized and dragged forcefully into the office and saved from yet harsher outcomes by other people; Ernesto Ferrara, from Repubblica, was targeted and publicly insulted by some taxi drivers who accused him of “mudslinging and timed lies”; a company that manages three private health clinics asked for 20 million euros in compensation to the journalist Adriano Mollo of the daily Quotidiano del Sud – author of two articles that recount some critical aspects surfaced during the evaluation of the necessary requirements for the renewal of the convention with the national health service – and to the company which publishes the daily, Finedit (owner of the paper’s website), as well as the president of the Calabria region, Mario Oliverio.
The Observatory has also deemed a case from last year to be in the spotlight once again: a writing insulting the journalists Marco Omizzolo and Roberto Lessio (of the daily il Manifesto), had been set outside the stadium in Latina in June 2014 by a group of supporters of the local football team, angry for an inquiry by the journalists on the political and legal adventures of the president of the football club and on the building abuses tied to the creation of a new stadium in the city.
Nonetheless, and luckily, as (almost) always there are a few positive news too: four journalists (Antonio De Gennaro, chief editor of the news agency Adgnews24, Malcom Pagani and Bruno Manfellotto, at the time respectively journalists and editor of l’Espresso, and Pasquale Chessa) have been found not guilty from libel charges (presented, among other things, by a colleague which has been punished by the Order of Journalists for his collaboration with the secret services); the condemnation for calumny for a professional who had sued the publisher and chief editor of the daily Gazzetta di Vercelli, guilty of having told of a case of conflict of interests in which he was involved; the filing of a lawsuit for defamation against Edoardo Bianchini, chief editor of LineeFuture, for an article that took up rumors of a possible arrest warrant, which never happened; the acquittal of Cristina Di Stefano, journalist from Abruzzo, from the accusation of disseminating office secrets, received for having published the quiz simulation of a public test; the filing of Liborio La Mattina, editor of the weekly La Voce Canavese, who was sued in 2011 by a regional councilor of the Piedmont region for an article on the closure of a hospital ward in Chivasso (Torino privince).
The surprising thing, in this case, is that the filing is from two years ago, but the journalist was informed only now. Yet again, the seizing of some buses in Naples, after a few reports on the safety conditions of schoolcbuses Luca Abete, correspondent for the satirical news service Striscia la Notizia, who had been beaten up while filming. It is also important to note the request to retrial for the known singer Gigi D’Alessio, already condemned in the first degree for having attacked, along with his collaborator, two photo reporters placed in front of his house.
Also to be notified: the investigations on the former bishop of Trapani, Francesco Miccichè, for aggravated and repeated calumny against monsignor Antonino Treppiedi, who had been sued first in 2011 along with the journalists Gianfranco Criscenti and Giuseppe Pipitone, with the accusation of having plotted against him; the acquittal of the writer Erri De Luca, accused of instigating crime because in an interview he said that it was right to sabotage the high speed rail line being built in Piedmont; the chants shouted during a demonstration, in support Ignazio Marino, mayor of Rome: in this case the journalists were targeted for the way in which the story was told and which brought the mayor to leave office.
On the international front, the initiative by European Centre for Press and Media Freedom of Leipzig (ECPMF), of which Ossigeno is among the founders, has launched a hosting program (with scholarship, health insurance and a job position) for those reporters who in their home country are threatened or work under undue pressures.
The numbers of October
Aggressions, warnings, threats through billboards and writings and through social networks, intimidating letters and phone calls, law abuses, citations for damages: these are the type of intimidation against journalists flagged by the observatory Ossigeno per l’Informazione during the month of October 2015. The names of the victims are listed in Table 2015 and indicated with the numbers from 191 a 217. These are over 130 journalists and video operators, chief editors and directors. From the beginning of the year, Ossigeno’s intimidations counter has flagged threats against 430 information operators, 325 of which suffered intimidation during the year, and 105 in the past, but the facts came to light only this year. Begun in 2006, the counter has reached 2575. According to Ossigeno estimates, for every known case of intimidation, at least ten remain unknown to the Observatory because the victims are not strong enough to let hem be known.
Anonymous persons asked the envoy of the television program to “control the three vases at home”. Viviani: “They know exactly where I live.” Strengthened security measures
The online newspaper Bentos accused her of conflict of interest due to the involvement of her husband in a festival. She thinks of filing a lawsuit
For the reports on the clash between him and other mayors of the Casentino area, who are also threatened to be sued. The reporters: he did not ask for any correction
Bersagliata di messaggi offensivi e intimidatori su Fb dopo la partecipazione al programma tv Bersaglio Mobile sulla criminalità a Ostia
“Fanno bene a prenderti a schiaffi”, gli ha urlato al telefono Anna Maria Brandimarte. Lui commenta: Ho paura ma non smetterò
Giorgio Mottola was attacked by the CEO of Sie Srl, who seriously damaged his camera
Ernesto Ferrara was accused on Facebook by the Florentine cooperative Socota of spreading “infamous clockwork slander”
L’ex agente Betulla si riteneva screditato da un’intervista che criticava un suo libro. Malcom Pagani: queste querele pesano molto su chi non ha chi paga la tutela legale
Sigfrido Ranucci and Luca Chianca were deceived by a case of homonymy. Soon after they made a spontaneous adjustment but were sued nonetheless
In the IGreco group’s line of sight the journalist Adriano Mollo of the daily Quotidiano del Sud, the regional governor and two publishing companies. Solidarity from Order of Journalists and FNSI Calabria
He has already been sentenced in the first degree for injury and wrongful exercise of his case, but prosecution says he has to answer to more serious charges: injury and robbery
Giuseppe Caruana of Sicilia TV was inside the school affected by the collapse of rubble. Solidarity from the Order of Journalists of Sicily
For an article of judicial reporting. “You saw what happened in France?”, a man told him four days after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo
La clamorosa denuncia a 20 giorni dall’inizio del maxi processo di Roma. L’accusa: avere informato i cittadini subito dopo gli 81 arresti
Lawsuit filed, the journalist Umberto Lorini counterclaims the then head of urban planning at Saluggia, on whom he had reported a conflict of interests
“You will die. Not even Jesus Christ will help you”, the boss Venerando Lauretta wrote on Facebook. The reporter pressed charges against him and his son
To the archives the lawsuit for having reported rumors of possible arrest order for the sports club president. The magistrate: countenance respected
Former councilor Lamberto Trivelloni (NCD) reacted to an article by the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano that recalled the sentences he suffered years ago
The announcement was made on TV during the TV show KlausCondicio. Presented a parliamentary inquiry on the incident
Aveva pubblicato la simulazione del quiz di un concorso pubblico. Condannato invece per la stessa vicenda un funzionario
The envoy of the TV show Striscia la Notizia had been beaten up while recording a service on security conditions of school transport. Abete: “I’m not afraid”
BrindisiReport published the protest but rejected the request of the former owner of the team New Basket Brindisi, Massimo Ferrarese
He had been denounced by a Regional Councillor for criticism on the closure of a hospital ward in Chivasso (Turin province)