Italy. The most dangerous news of November 2015, as reported by Ossigeno
Monthly review of acts of intimidation created by the European Center for Freedom of Information and Press of Leipzig (ECPMF) and with the support of the European Union
In November 2015, the episode of intimidation against Italian journalists that sparked the highest alert was not consumed in the Italian territory, but in the Vatican. It concerns two Italian journalists on trial in the court of the Papal States; Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, each author of an inquiry book, published in Italy earlier this month and currently amongst the best sellers. The two books relate to the contents of documents that reveal a series of expenditures by major prelates with Vatican money, some wastes and purchases made for personal benefit, causing a stir. For having revealed these facts, the two journalists and three other defendants accused of having stolen the papers to prove it, have been accused by the Vatican judiciary with the offense of disclosure of confidential documents considered of paramount interest to the Vatican, and are now indicted by the Vatican judiciary and are on trial.
The journalists do not have to answer for disseminating falsehoods or defaming anyone, but to have revealed confidential information. Since the information is in the public interest, until proven otherwise, the journalists have only carried on with the role that the duty of a journalist requires. Nuzzi and Fittipaldi have done their job, and also a good one at that. And this is why they risk a prison sentence from four to eight years.
In Italy it would not have been possible. Italian law punishes with a penalty so severe only the disclosure of information covered by state secrecy in matters concerning national security or for acts on which the government has explicitly classified as State secret. So far the Italian public institutions have not taken a position on the matter, but something is moving. On November 26, one hundred and three MPs, members of the Chamber of Deputies, signed a document of protest in which, among other things, they ask to fully guarantee the rights of defense of the two journalists, which are included in the Vatican legislation with regards both to the knowledge of the documents and to the appointment of the defenders. On the eve of the trial, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, has officially asked the authorities of the Holy See (member State of the OSCE) to withdraw the charges because “journalists must be free to report on matters of public interest and to protect their confidential sources”, as per according to international law.
Another serious incident relates to a case of police custody for the journalist Antonino Monteleone in Naples for five hours, at the request of a judge involved in a topical news story, to whom the reporter addressed uncomfortable questions, inside the Palace of Justice. Antonino Monteleone, reporter for the television news program Piazzapulita (aired on La7), was arrested by officers of the Coast Guard while he was questioning insistently the magistrate Anna Scognamiglio, in these days at the center of the national news reel because of some phone taps that concern her.
Besides these two episodes, so unusual as to seem drawn from novels set in previous eras, there have been numerous other acts of intimidation confirming the climate of intolerance for news reporting and the inadequacy of the law.
For example, the prosecutor in Torre Annunziata (in the province of Naples) is investigating the freelance journalist Simone Di Meo, on charges of “revelation and use of acts covered by secrecy” for having published, a few days after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, on the Roman newspaper Il Tempo, three articles regarding the investigations on an Italian woman recruited by Daesh. For these articles Simone Di Meo faces a jail sentence of three years. For the same articles also the chief editor of the newspaper, Gian Marco Chiocci, is under investigation for the crime of omitted due diligence. Among other things, Di Meo has to bear the legal costs for the defense on his own, because his newspaper does not cover these expenses for freelancers like him.
The journalist Matteo Gracis will have to pay 7,000 Euros (including fines, damages and court costs) for defamation. The Court of Belluno ruled in favor of a former lawmaker who cited him for failure to remove in total a comment appeared on a forum hosted on the portal nuovocadore.it, of which Mr Garcis is both the responsible manager. Faced with the request, Gracis had removed only the offensive part of the comment because, he explained, otherwise the others would have lost meaning and logic.
Another kind of intimidation that is common in Italy is the warning: the last case of this kind has as victims two journalists of the weekly newspaper Corriere della Calabria: the reporter Alessia Càndito and the chief editor Paolo Pollichieni, who received several emails from Vincenzo Speziali, a Calabrian entrepreneur involved in a judicial inquiry, and who took refuge, as a fugitive, in Lebanon, which demanded the publication of his threatening messages.
In Rome, two television reporters of the TG1 and Sky were attacked by relatives of victims of a double murder that took place in the outskirts of the capital, who did not like the presence of television crews at the scene. Fortunately there were also the police, who allowed to avoid more serious consequences.
The cars of two sports journalists from the Marche region were damaged in retaliation. Raffaele Vitali, chief editor of laprovinciadifermo.com, after a basketball game, found his car door damaged. Three days later, his colleague Daniele Bolletini, who works for VeraTV, after the commentary of a football match, has found a tire slashed and a mirror broken.
In Anzio, near Rome, the journalist Giovanni Del Giaccio, already a victim of threats on several other occasions reported on his blog that some councilors were in dispute with the municipality because they didn’t pay some taxes and fines. The president insulted Del Giaccio during the session of the City Council.
The coach of a five-a-side football team, however, has promised on Facebook slaps in the face to the press attendant of an opposing team. After the protests of the Order of Journalists of Abruzzo, he apologized.
The crew of a known TV show (Quinta Colonna, aired on Rete 4) was forced to shut down a live connection from a public place in Rome organized to comment on the attacks of November 13 in Paris, because menacingly surrounded by a large group of protesters. The reporter and the cameraman said that police had advised them to stop broadcasting and to vacate the premises.
Other episodes confirm the trend of political and public administrators to react with complaints and requests for damages to the publication of unwelcome news. In Torre Annunziata (in the province of Naples), the City Council has approved a resolution to sue the journalist Salvatore Sparavigna, accusing him of slander and defamation. In Lecce, four years after the publication of the articles, the mayor wants to sue five local newspapers that reported a judicial inquiry on the use of cocaine by members of the political scene of the city. In Naples, the City Council has demanded millions of euros in compensation to Massimo Giletti, host of a television show (aired on the public broadcaster RAI), who had called Naples an abandoned city and full of waste. The journalist Filippo Facci commented the case on his newspaper, on the newspaper Libero, and was therefore sued by another administrator of the city.
In Latina, the senator Claudio Moscardelli announced a lawsuit against Ivan Eotvos, contributor to the newspaper Il Giornale di Latina, for an article published on October 19 in which he reported his alleged relationship with an entrepreneur who ended up in jail.
A lawsuit filed in 2010 by a commissioner of the anti-doping institution of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) against the journalist Xavier Jacobelli, has been dragging on while looking for a competent judge. The story has returned to the public attention after the decision of the court of Cremona to transfer the proceedings to the court of Bergamo, for lack of territorial jurisdiction.
Davide Falcioni is likely to end up in court with serious charges (trespassing, domestic violence, damages, threats, unauthorized access to computer system and resisting the police) because of a testimony. The journalist said that, during his testimony in favor of the defendants in a trial to protesters opposed to the high-speed rail line linking Turin to Lyon, the prosecutor interrupted him, and ordered his entry in the register of suspects for the crimes charges against the defendants.
So far, a string of bad news. But there is also some good news. It took four years, but in the end just as many journalists from Molise were acquitted from charges of defamation filed by the manager of an organization for environmental protection, which had sued them because they had posted on their news outlets the release of an environmental association concerned with the harmful effects of emissions of two industrial plants.
Acquitted, in Milan, from the charge of defamation, the chief editor of the web magazine Volleyball.it, Luca Muzzioli. An MP, who is also president of the League of Volleyball Clubs of the Female Italian Serie A, had demanded a compensation for 1 million and 650 thousand Euros!
Also the legal proceedings against the blogger Luigi Boschi ended positively, after he had been sued for defamation by a collaborator of the theater of Parma, who had asked for the seizure of five articles.
Also filed the lawsuit to the journalist Gabriele Piccardo, denounced by a mayor, because he said that in his municipality there were ongoing judicial investigations on the mafia.
Fortunately, even in Italy someone understands that certain complaints have a deterrent effect beyond the very intentions of the plaintiff. It has been understood by the President of the Tuscany Region, Enrico Rossi, and credit is due to him. Rossi had sued a journalist of the newspaper Libero. When the journalists’ union has pointed out that the journalist was a precarious freelance, paid a few Euros, for which the publisher would not have paid the legal fees, Rossi withdrew the lawsuit, recognizing that it is not fair that those who pay are those less protected and who are the weak link in the publishing chain.
November in numbers
In November 2015, Ossigeno per l’Informazione reported threats and acts of intimidation against 130 journalists, bloggers, photo reporters and video reporters, chief editors and publishers.
The names of the victims are listed in Table 2015. The types of intimidation include: assault, damages, threatening letters, insults, threats on social networks, abuses of the law, subpoenas for damages, libel suits considered pretentious, arbitrary prosecution for publication of judicial acts, obstacle to information.
So far this year, the intimidation counter set up by Ossigeno has had an increase of 472 units. 359 of these were threats carried out during the year, the other 113 in previous years. The counter has been in existance since 2006 and now marks 2617. According to Ossigeno estimates, for every known act of intimidation that can be documented at least ten others remain unknown, also to the Observatory, because the victims do not have the strength to make them public.
For Enrico Rossi it would be unfair to allow the “the weakest link” to pay. The gesture suggested by the Tuscany Press Association
Reported in 2011 by former manager of ARPA. The judges: lack of evidence. Non procedure against the authors of the text distributed to newspapers
For the magistrate, Luigi Boschi has respected the right to criticize. He had been denounced by an employee of the Conservatory which also called for the seizure of 5 articles
They raised a banner with insults against reporters of the Manifesto which had told of the interests and the career of the owner Pasquale Maietta
In 2012 Davide Falcioni, reporter for Agoravox entered with the protesters inside the offices of the company Geovalsusa Ltd. in Turin
From Lebanon, Vincenzo Speziali, asked Alessia Càndito and Paolo Pollichieni to publish offensive press releases against magistrates and law enforcement agencies
“I’ll shoot you in the mouth, you b…” the families of victims shouted in front of the police, denying the drug track
For the Court of Milan the editor of Volleyball.it has respected the right to criticize. Presented by President Fabris also a complaint to Order of Journalists
Ivan Eotvos, contributor to the newspaper Il Giornale di Latina, is under scrutiny for a news article considered defamatory
The journalist was sued in 2010 by the FIGC commissioner De Vita who reprimanded him for having delayed the controls on two players
The council approved the request for a compensation worth millions. Filippo Facci sued by another administrator for an article published on Libero
Tire slashed and broken mirror to the cars of VeraTV. Scarred that of laprovinciadifermo.com. Sigim, Gcm and Ussi Marche condemn the acts
I’m a victim of unacceptable discrimination, says the journalist, who requested the intervention of the union and the Association of Journalists
For the offense of conspiring to disclose classified information and documents. The Roman Press Association and the MP Michele Anzaldi (PD) defend them
In 2014 the journalist Gabriele Piccardo had written that were anti-mafia investigations in the town
After the protests he apologized. It happened between the five-a-side football teams “Acqua & Sapone di Città Sant’Angelo” and “Città di Montesilvano”
Antonino Monteleone had filmed with his phone in Court the Judge Anna Scognamiglio while asking her unwelcome questions on the De Luca case
During a sitting, the president has deemed an “infamous persone” Giovanni Del Giaccio for a post on his blog. Solidarity from colleagues of Anzio-Nettuno
The council instructed a lawyer. Nuovo Quotidiano di Puglia, Telenorba, TeleRama, Lecce Prima and Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno are involved. Order and union protest
Nausicaa Della Valle was with the crew of Quinta Colonna in a venue in Centocelle. The police recommended to suspend filming
The charges by prosecutors in Torre Annunziata (Naples) concern also the editor of the newspaper Il Tempo.it for articles on Fatima, an Italian recruited by ISIS. Solidarity from Order and union
After a cancellation request, Matteo Gracis, manager of the portal nuovocadore.it had removed only a part