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Italy. January 2016. The most dangerous news by Ossigeno

There have been 49 journalists and bloggers suffering from acts of intimidation. The attacks on professional secrecy and on investigative journalism in Mafia trials stand out

This monthly review of acts of intimidation in Italy is produced by Ossigeno per l’Informazione for the European Center for Print and Media Freedom of Leipzig Print (ECPMF) with the support of the European Union

In Italy, investigative journalism is under attack also from the courts. In January 2016 Ossigeno per l’Informazione reported in detail dozens of episodes that have targeted 49 journalists and bloggers.

The most spectacular attack was carried out within the courtrooms of Rome during the trials to persons accused of mafia association against the journalist Liro Abbate, editor and star reporter of the weekly L’Espresso. The lawyer Bruno Naso, counsel for one of the principal defendants, Massimo Carminati, has repeatedly offended and insulted the journalist, mocking him, and deliberately twisting his name to ridicule and belittle the credibility of his articles, which revealed the existence of the criminal organization and have turned the public’s attention on the issue way before the judiciary intervened. The solicitor’s behavior was deemed intimidating and therefore “unacceptable” in a joint document signed by Ossigeno, by the unitary union of journalists, the FNSI, and by the National Order of Journalists. The document, which has had extensive media coverage, calls for respect and protection for Lirio Abbate (who has already suffered repeated death threats since 2007 and is protected by armed agents of the state police). The three organizations have addressed a public appeal to the highest authorities so that the courtrooms not be transformed into places where to instrumentally hit journalists who are not to blame, but credited instead for having done their job.

PROFESSIONAL CONFIDENTIALITY – Equally disturbing for those who do investigative journalism are two severe attacks on professional confidentiality of journalist sources: two unprecedented legal actions questioning the effectiveness of laws that affirm the right of journalists not to reveal the identity of the trusted sources. The judiciary has circumvented this fundamental guarantee by asking the publisher directly for any material thus obtaining the information. These initiatives have raised a wave of criticism against the magistrates. Ossigeno share these criticisms. But also notes that the behavior of the publishers was also wrong, because the Italian law and the entire European jurisprudence say that the publisher, like the journalists, is bound to observe the confidentiality of fiduciary sources for published information. What has happened is of deep concern because one of the publishers who violated the professional secrecy clause is RAI, the public broadcaster. The other broadcaster involved, La7, operates via television, with a generalist network. The episodes were only two and did not receive the media and political attention they deserve.

The prosecutor of Rome ordered the seizure of the original footage of interviews with police officers who said, in front of cameras, that weapons and anti-terrorism protection systems supplied to the Italian police were seriously inadequate. In the broadcasted videos, the networks had protected the anonymity of the police officers by disguising their face and electronically imitating their voices. In the films seized, however, it is possible to see their face and to listen to their true voice clearly. The measures concern the journalist Antonino Monteleone for the television news program Piazzapulita (aired on the La7 national network), and the news service on the same subject produced by another journalist, Alessio Lasta, for the television show Ballarò, broadcast on RAI (the public broadcasting company).

Also, the case of the journalist Marco Lillo (of Il Fatto Quotidiano) concerns professional confidentiality, but it is different from previous ones. The Anti-Mafia Investigative Directorate of Reggio Calabria has opened an investigation against him accusing him of having entered information covered by secret in some articles on the irregular use of public funds by the Northern League party. When police ordered him to provide information about his sources and hand over documents in his possession, so as to avoid an official search warrant, the reporter refused opposing the case for professional secrecy

2016 – In the first month of 2016, Ossigeno per l’Informazione added another 49 names to the list of Italian journalists and bloggers who have suffered threats, acts of intimidation, retaliation, abuse because of their activities, a list that now contains 2722 names. Therefore, new year, old and maybe even worse problems. Not only because of the number of episodes (there were 528 in 2015) but also because of the nature of the acts of intimidation and for their chilling consequences – often uncontested – they produce on the world of information and social life. Ossigeno will continue to report incidents, problems to be addressed, issues to be solved. But it saw fit to warn readers (read) that there is a gap between the number of reported violations of press freedom that take place without the media talking about it nor be reached by the scant resources that the Centre has for determining the truth, analyze the nature of the case and publish the details. This gap is growing. This raises serious questions on the future of the Observatory.

CIVIL HEROES – Yet there are encouraging signs. The latest on, the choice by the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, to confer the highest honor of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic to the reporters Federica Angeli and Paolo Borrometi, repeatedly threatened and as such forced to live under police protection. It is an act not at all obvious, which continues his predecessor’s attention, President Giorgio Napolitano, who before leaving the Quirinale granted the same honor to Lirio Abbate, another journalist under police protection. It’s a good sign to recognize the quality of civilian heroes to those journalists who have risked their lives to inform citizens of the infiltration of the Mafia, who have embarked on quests which inexplicably the media do not speak of. That said, here’s the usual roundup of the most remarkable episodes of intimidation.

IN PRISON FOR LIBEL – In Italy, journalists continue to be sentenced to prison for libel offenses. It seems incredible but true. The last bill that provides for the abolition of this penalty has been sitting in Parliament for nearly three years, and all the while convictions poured down. The latest is that of Nicola Rinaudo, chief editor and publisher of the Sicilian magazine Extra, sentenced to one year in prison, a three hundred euro fine and five thousand euro for damages against a former mayor who became a deputy to the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The prison sentence was suspended, but said benefit is subject to the payment of damages.

In the meantime, the house arrest orders against the journalist Francesco Gangemi, 81, who has accumulated prison sentences for libel for a total of nearly three years, has been rescinded. He now awaits to be assigned to social services.

On the other hand, a prison sentence was asked (on January 22 by the Prosecutor of Milan) for Filippo Roma, correspondent for the TV show Le Iene, broadcast on ItaliaUno: he is accused of defamation for some pieces in 2013 that questioned the veracity of interviews with celebrities published by two magazines of the publishing house of Urbano Cairo.

LETTER WITH A BULLET – In Vibo Valentia, in the Calabria region, the journalists Francesco Mobilio (Quotidiano del Sud) and Pietro Comito (LaC) and the lawyer Marco Talarico, on Christmas Eve received an envelope with an intimidating phrase, a bullet and the title of an article from the daily Il Quotidiano del Sud, after having covered the demolition of an abandoned building.

CARS ON FIRE – In the same region, in Lamezia Terme, on the night between January 5 and 6, the car of Pasqualino Rettura, another journalist from the Quotidiano del Sud, was set on fire. Its director, Rocco Valenti, explained in a article that investigators believe it is an act of intimidation due to journalistic activities of the victim.

Another car was damaged – on January 17 – with a firecracker: that of Stefania Petyx, correspondent of the satirical news reel Striscia La Notizia. In her view it could be a retaliation for one of her recent services.

Inside and outside the courts

COMPLAINTS – Federico Domenichelli, reporter for Latina Editoriale Oggi, is the recipient of eight of the ten complaints (the other two complaints concern his colleague Graziella Di Mambro) presented by the Mayor of Sperlonga (in the province of Latina) for articles, published between 2014 and 2015, which report of episodes of illegal building in the small seaside town south of Rome.

Looming, according to the request of the Bologna Public Prosecutor, the trial against Giancarlo Padovan and Mario Giordano, a journalist and an editor of a national news program, the TG4, sued in 2014 by the football referee Nicola Rizzoli for some opinions about him.

The newspaper Il Messaggero and the journalist Adelina Lilli Mandara lost a libel suit against them by the Director of the Regional Agency for the Environment of Abruzzo, who, however, asked for only the journalist to pay the compensation of 45 thousand euro established by Court of Chieti. This, despite along with her – for an article of 2011 – were also sentenced the chief editor and publisher of the newspaper.

Two web newspapers from Parma (Parma and Parma Today’s Daily), on the other hand, managed to win a suit and will not have to delete articles in which they had reported the positions of a writer and of an environmental organization regarding the risk of pollution due to the electricity co-generator of a company, the Citterio, which reacted to the publication asking the darkening of the texts.

A few kilometers further, in Bologna, the substitute prosecutors, Antonella Scandellari and Antonello Gustapane withdrew the complaints for libel against two local politicians and the journalists of the Corriere di Bologna who had reported their statements regarding the start of a judicial inquiry into some operations of the mayor of the city, Virginio Merola.

Even Giacomo Chiappori, mayor of Diano Marina (in the province of Imperia) withdrew his lawsuit against two journalists – Gian Piero Moretti and Franco Bianchi, chief editor and editor of the weekly Puntoimperia – of whom the reporters in 2012 wrote about, alleging that he had illegally occupied a berth in the harbor of the town.

The Civil Court of Reggio Calabria has acquitted from charges of libel Caterina Tripodi (Quotidiano del Sud), rejecting the claim for damages of over one million euro advanced against her by the plaintiffs (the former President of the Court of Appeal of Reggio Calabria and the sole director of a company), who were instead sentenced to pay court costs of about 15 thousand euro.

Instead the Court of Velletri sent to the archives the proceedings stemming from the complaints of the mayor of Naples, Luigi De Magistris, against journalists of the weekly L’Espresso, Claudio Pappaianni and Gianluca di Feo, authors in 2011 of an investigation ( “Drink and Naples then you die”) on the health of the waters in the Campania region, carried out using the data produced by the US Army. For the judge, the essential core of the facts recounted is true.

The archiving – “because the crime does not exist” – also came for the journalist Alessandro Biancardi, chief editor of the online news website PrimaDaNoi. The judge for the preliminary investigations of the Court of Chieti (in the Abruzzo region) has thus closed the lawsuit for libel pressed by the chairman of the Board of Liquidators of a publicly listed company whose shares are owned in part by the Abruzzo Region, the Provincial Administration and Selex, another company.

Threats, insults, discrediting

On January 5th, in Ossona in the province of Milan, during the town feast, the blogger Ilaria Preti, after being threatened on the phone, was attacked by a man, angry because she had taken care of certain housing irregularities that involve an association of which he was president.

In Emilia-Romagna two sports journalists, Gian Piero Travini and Stefano Severi, were insulted on Facebook December 29th by Giorgio Lugaresi, President of the Cesena Calcio, who resented criticism. The next day, however, he apologized publicly.

On January 9th, always on Facebook, the journalist Roberta Lanzolla was insulted because on the portal santeramoweb.it she had reported criticism of some citizens to the announcement of the visit to Santeramo in Colle (in the province of Bari), of the Northern League leader Matteo Salvini. To react in such a rude way to article, was the local coordinator of the political group.

On January 16th in Taranto the journalist Luigi Abbate, who leads a broadcast on a local TV station, has been accused of bias and as such turned away from a press conference of the provincial section of the Democratic Party. He, however, reacted by calling the police.

Also Saverio Tommasi is concerned. A Florentine blogger, contributor to the online magazine Fanpage.it, on January 16 denounced threats he received on Facebook, where he is being targeted with insults and threats on various pages and through direct messages.

After Facebook threats, received for months, an invitation to boycott: it happens in Puglia, where the journalists of the Nuovo Quotidiano di Puglia and the Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, who have long been concerned with the “Xylella case” (the spread of a bacterium that affects olive trees), are being targeted by a protest movement that challenges the scientific basis and the effectiveness of the adopted strategy to contain the emergency.

Ten Italian journalists have been inserted by the embassy of Azerbaijan in Rome in a list of undesirables, published on its website, to whom it is prohibited to enter the country. The list also includes sculptors, architects and employees of the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. These are people, the Embassy explained, who smuggled into the Republic of Azerbaijan.

On the other hand, the website Gay.it was accused by four senators of the Democratic Party of “squadrism”, i.e. to adopt fascist methods, for having published photos and e-mail addresses of politicians opposed to the possibility for same-sex couples to adopt the son of the partner, a subject at the heart of the public debate in Italy at the moment. According to Ossigeno, however, the initiatives that signal to voters the attitude of parliamentarians on issues of political debate and of parliamentary business are legitimate.

On January 25th, the Lombard Reporters Group protested for the expulsion of journalists from the hearing, in Milan’s City Council building, of the sole commissioner of the Expo, Giuseppe Sala. Indeed, during the session the journalists present were seated outside the courtroom by the local police.

January in numbers

In January 2016, Ossigeno per l’Informazione reported threats and acts of intimidation against 49 journalists, bloggers, magazine editors and publishers, including 24 affected in previous years, but of which the Centre became aware only now. The Ossigeno Counter, which takes into account all confirmed victims since 2006, has reached 2722. According to Ossigeno estimates, for every known and documented act of intimidation there are at least ten others that remain unknown to Observatory, also because the victims do not have the strength to go public. The types of intimidation include: assaults, insults, damages, arsons, threats on social networks, obstacles to inform, discrimination and arbitrary exclusions, spurious defamation suits, abuses of the law.

Links

CAPITAL MAFIA. PROTEST FOR OFFENCES BY CARMINATI DEFENDER AGAINST LIRIO ABBATE
These attacks are unacceptable, Ossigeno, FNSI and OdG comment in a joint document with which they appeal to the competent authorities

OSSIGENO FNSI ODG: JOURNALISTS ARE NOT TARGETS, RESPECT LIRIO ABBATE
A joint statement defines as unacceptable the attacks on the journalist during some public hearings for the Mafia trials in Rome

ABRUZZO. COMPENSATION REQUEST TO A REPORTER AND PUBLISHER. PROTESTS
It is an act of intimidation, the comments of the Order of Journalists and the Union of Journalists. Adelina Lilli Mandara responds to an article of 2011 on Il Messaggero

VIBO VALENTIA. LETTER WITH BULLET TO TWO JOURNALISTS AND A LAWYER
Threatened Francesco Mobilio (Quotidiano del Sud), Pietro Comito (LaC) and lawyer Marco Talarico. Investigations on the demolition of an abandoned building

CITTERIO LOSES CASE BUT ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST SURRENDERS BEFORE JUDGEMENT
Two online newspapers from Parma resist and make it. Instead Giuliano Serioli leaves the trial, committing not to talk any more about the contested co-generator of S. Ilario

CALABRIA. GANGEMI LEAVES HOUSE ARREST. ASSIGNED TO SOCIAL SERVICES
The journalist, 81 years old, has accumulated prison sentences for libel for nearly three years. Carlo Parisi calls for mercy

WEB. PRESIDENT CESENA FOOTBALL CLUB FIRTS INSULTS TWO JOURNALISTS THEN FEELS SORRY
On Facebook, Giorgio Lugaresi defined Gian Piero Travini and Stefano Severi “as blood-suckers and poor-minded”. He then deleted the post. Order of Journalists of Emilia Romagna defends reporters

LAMEZIA TERME. BURNT DOWN CAR OF REPORTER OF THE QUOTIDIANO DEL SUD
Pasqualino Rettura says: “I continue with my work.” Solidarity from Order of Journalists, FNSI, the world of politics and the press

SPERLONGA. TEN COMPLAINTS FROM MAYOR TO TWO JOURNALISTS
The case of Federico Domenichelli and Graziella Di Mambro from the daily Latina Editorial Oggi for articles on unauthorized building sites

LEGA NORD FUNDS. INVESTIGATIONS ON AUTHOR OF JOURNALISTIC INQUIRY
Order to deliver documents to Marco Lillo of the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, which published phone taps placed by the DIA of Reggio Calabria

WEB. PUGLIA. MATTEO SALVINI ARRIVES, ACTIVISTS INSULT A JOURNALIST
The victim was Roberta Lanzolla because she aired the opinion of those who criticized the visit of the leader of the Northern League in Santeramo in Colle (Bari). Solidarity from Order of Journalists

FOOTBALL. PM CALLS ON INDICTMENT FOR REPORTER AND CHIEF EDITOR TG4
Mario Giordano and the journalist Giancarlo Padovan were sued in 2014 by the referee Nicola Rizzoli following some opinions expressed about him on TV

ROME. AZERBAIJAN EMBASSY PUBLISHES BLACK LIST OF ITALIAN JOURNALISTS
There are ten. They can not set foot in Azerbaijan as persona non grata. Those singled out are those going to the Nagorno Karabakh or defends its autonomy

PROTESTS FOR SEIZURE OF FOOTAGE BY PIAZZAPULITA FROM BROADCASTER LA7
Bypassed professional secrecy. Canceled the precautions to protect the identity of police officer that denounces not adequate anti-terrorism equipment

BOLOGNA. TWO PUBLIC PROSECUTORS WITHDRAW COMPLAINTS AGAINST POLITICIANS AND JOURNALISTS
We did not want to offend, the sued say following statements on the Corriere di Bologna. The magistrates took note that they did not have such an intention

MAYOR OF NAPLES LAWSUIT TO THE ARCHIVES. IT CLAIMED ONE BILLION EURO FROM L’ESPRESSO
Luigi De Magistris had sued the journalists Claudio Pappaianni and Gianluca di Feo for the investigation into the health of waters, realized with the data from the US Navy

TARANTO. “YOU ARE BIASED”. JOURNALIST EXPELLED FROM DEMOCRATIC PARTY PRESS CONFERENCE
Luigi Abbate called the police and announces formal complaint. Order of Journalists of Puglia and Trade Union express solidarity

OSSONA (MILAN). BLOGGER ASSAULTED BY FORMER PRESIDENT PRO LOCO
Ilaria Preti denounced the aggression and telephone threats she has been receiving for three weeks, since she had published an article on cronacaossona.it

GAY.IT ACCUSED OF BLACKLIST OF THOSE OPPOSED TO STEPCHILD ADOPTION
Allegations of “squadrism” against the website which also invited to write on these MPs public profiles, having already published their addresses

PALERMO. DAMAGED CAR OF STEFANIA PETYX, REPORTER OF “STRISCIA LA NOTIZIA”
A firecracker exploded under the car parked in the street near her house. She says there are no surveillance cameras

YET MORE JAIL FOR LIBEL. JOURNALIST SENTENCED TO ONE YEAR
The Court of Trapani commutes the suspension of the sentence to the payment of 5 thousand euro in compensation. Ossigeno asks: wasn’t it supposed to be abolished three years ago?

MATTARELLA APPOINTS KNIGHTS FEDERICA ANGELI AND PAOLO BORROMETI
Both live under police protection. Ossigeno thanks the Head of State for his sensitivity on the issue of protecting threatened journalists

WEB. WORRIED BY INSULTS ON FB, BLOGGER SAVERIO TOMMASI SAYS
Created on Facebook a false event that invited you to “dress up as a refugee and go under Tommasi’s home.” Twelve hundred signatures in less than 24 hours

XYLELLA EMERGENCY. THREE JOURNALISTS THREATENED IN SALENTO
They wrote news articles on the drying of the olive trees. Singled out becuase of their pictures and offensive statements on social networks. Solidarity and protests

IN TEN YEARS OSSIGENO HAS COME A LONG WAY. NOW IT FACES A FEW PROBLEMS
The Observatory is more visible and incisive. But there is a gap between the high number of threats to follow and the few and uncertain resources available

PUBLIC PROSECUTOR SEIZES BALLARÒ FOOTAGE FROM RAI: JUST LIKE PIAZZAPULITA
Also in this case the judges have not turned to reporters but to the publisher. In the video, a police officer is made unrecognizable

SECRET ON CONFIDENTIAL SOURCES. EUROPE DICTATES : PUBLISHERS ARE ALSO REQUIRED
It is enshrined by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the rulings of the Strasbourg Court. To Ballarò a case similar to that of La7

REGGIO CALABRIA. REJECTED REQUEST FOR MILLIONS TO JOURNALIST FROM THE QUOTIDIANO DEL SUD
For the Court of Reggio Calabria, Caterina Tripodi has respected the right to report facts. Condemned a judge and a businessman to pay about 15.000 euro of expenses

MEDALS TO BORROMETI AND ANGELI. APPROVAL OF MATTARELLA’S CHOICE
The President of the National Order of Journalists, the President and the Secretary of the FNSI thank the Head of State. “Proud” for the honor also the friars of Assisi

DIANO MARINA. AFTER 4 YEARS THE MAYOR DROPS CHARGES AGAINST TWO JOURNALISTS
At the hearing on 15 October 2015 a court document showed what was written by PuntoImperia. Also withdrawn charges against the president of the port authority

ANCONA. MAYOR ATTACKS LOCAL PRESS: IT’S LOW QUALITY
The mayor, Valeria Mancinelli, has offended the local reporters during a public meeting. The video on Facebook. Firm reaction by the ODG President of the Marche region

DEFAMATION. PM ASKS FOR 4 MONTHS IMPRISONMENT FOR FILIPPO ROMA (LE IENE)
The correspondent is being sued by the Cairo publishing house for having said, in three TV reports back in 2013, that some interviews published on magazines of the publishing group were invented

ABRUZZO. TWO YEARS TO ARCHIVE UNFOUNDED LAWSUIT AGAINST PRIMADANOI
For the magistrate there is “lack of evidence”. The journalist Biancardi was accused of defamation for having reported public statements by the Regionial Governor

MILAN. HEARING OF EXPO COMMISSIONER. LOCAL POLICE KEEPS REPORTERS AWAY
Ossigeno: just like in authoritarian countries. The Lombard Reporters Group : “serious and worrying gesture”. Giuseppe Sala was awaited by journalists at Palazzo Marino

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