Italy. May 2016. The most dangerous news gathered by Ossigeno
This monthly review of acts intimidation in Italy is produced by Ossigeno per l’Informazione for the European Center for Press and Media Freedom of Leipzig (ECPMF), with the support of the European Union
The bad news on the health status of press freedom in Italy, as we explain elsewhere, are the specialty of this report. In Italy these news are many, are important, but many of them can be read only on Ossigeno’s news site. It’s hard to learn them from other media if not for mere mentions, usually to throw water on the fire, so as to say that there is no need to be afraid, that everything is under control. Why? The newspaper editors say that these things are not interesting, they bore readers, depress sales. As such they remain screened from the general public, so much so for those violations of absolute gravity for which the international institutions, as soon as they got wind, raised the alarm, as happened most recently on May 27, when the Representative on Media Freedom of the OSCE, Dunjia Mijatovic made it known to the whole world that the Italian Senate was about to pass a law that would have disregarded all the pledges made by the Italian authorities with the international community. The Senate, in fact, was preparing (and still is preparing) to approve a bill that would increase from six to nine years, the maximum penalty for those found guilty of defamation. This – the OSCE Representative said – “would have a chilling effect, and a harmful one, on investigative journalism.”
As Ossigeno explained, the harshening of the penalty would be possible by introducing a specific aggravating circumstance, a residue of archaic legal systems, which in Italy has not been applied for a long time. The same kind of aggravating circumstance that another bill being examined by the same Senate Judiciary Committee which proposes to abolish it, with a proposal that has already received the consent of both Houses of Parliament and which still awaits a final vote. Even more worrying is the fact that the new bill proposes to apply this aggravated punishment for defamation of individual legislators, public officials, magistrates, political and judicial bodies. “This legislative initiative – the OSCE Representative on Media Freedom commented – is harmful because, in itself, prison sentences are a disproportionate penalty for libel.”
Among other things, in the wake of these statements and the detailed information provided by Ossigeno per l’Informazione to the OSCE, also other international organizations have taken a stand. The fact was reported by organizations such as the EFJ (European Federation of Journalists), AEJ (Association of European Journalists), IPI (International Press Institute) and Index on Censorship as a level 2 alarm (the highest alarm level is 1) on the “Platform for the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists” of the Council of Europe. This means that the Council of Europe will ask for justifications to the Italian Government. The Italian media have not given visibility or importance even to these alarms. While the Italian authorities have not given any explanation.
No one knows how this story will end, since at the political level it is even more surprising. Indeed, as Ossigeno documented, in order to propose even more jail for the defamation and protection of the political and judicial class, the Senate Judiciary Committee has made a coup. It has undermined the bill introduced in 2012, after the scandal for the arrest of the journalist Alessandro Sallusti, to abolish the penalty of imprisonment for defamation and replace it with a fine. That bill, urged by international institutions, was already voted several times by Parliament and is awaiting only the final vote. That text, among other things already contains the aggravating circumstances for politic, administrative or judicial bodies, now called into service and embittered.
It’s a big mess and it confirms three things: how little importance the Government and Parliament attribute to freedom of expression; how public opinion is alien and disinterested to these issues; how much the Italian journalism is inattentive to these issues. A fact also confirmed by the publication of the new annual report of Reporters Sans Frontieres, which this year has ranked Italy yet further down, to the 77th place among 180 nations. Apart from a few rare exceptions, no one has explained why, no one said that the data gathered by Ossigeno for this classification justify the bad performance but not the ranking in the table, because in other countries there is no comparable observatory. Ossigeno stressed this aspect trusting that the time and work of raising awareness manage to do make it understood and promote a similar monitoring abroad.
Fortunately, this demand is gaining momentum also within international institutions. In this sense, on April 13 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has addressed some recommendations to the 47 member states of the organization, inviting them to monitor threats to journalists and attacks on freedom of information, due to defaults and backward laws. The Committee has suggested the creation of independent permanent observation centers by governments, to strengthen the protection and safety of journalists, and to limit the term of imprisonment only for press offenses inciting violence and racial hatred.
Another useful initiative is that of the European Centre for Press and Freedom of Leipzig (ECPMF; of which Ossigeno is one of the founders), which created the Online Resource Centre on Media Freedom. It is an online documentation center that offers free documents on press freedom produced by associations and organizations across Europe. The platform – which contains sections on the legal instruments for the protection of media freedom in Europe, about the support centers for threatened journalists, about training opportunities, and about awareness campaigns – is designed to promote a documented and inclusive debate and an international vision of the problems of the information world.
The International Day for Freedom of the Press – May has started, as every year, with an important event: on the 3rd day of the month falls the International Day for Freedom of the Press, which Ossigeno celebrated (with the support of the Observatory for the safety and legality of the Lazio Region) in Rome. The observatory has entered into a large wall panel the faces and the names of Italian journalists killed because of their work. The collage is framed by the inscription “They were looking for the truth. 28 names, 1 single story. ”
The Director of the Observatory, Alberto Spampinato, also presented the book containing the research carried out by Ossigeno on behalf of the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission on legislative and social reasons that determine such a high number of threats and acts of intimidation against Italian journalists that deal for work on the episodes of mafia and corruption. The research includes reports on how the Mafia is told by the media in Germany, France and Belgium. The volume, now out of print, called “L’Antitesi Mafia-Informazione” (“The Mafia-information Antithesis”) will be distributed free of charge to employees and to the Centre’s supporters and to those who will request it.
On May 3, in Rome the celebration of the World Day of Freedom of the Press was concluded at the House of Cinema with a screening of the documentary “Silencio”, produced by Attilio Bolzoni and Massimo Cappello, which tells the story of some threatened reporters in Mexico and in Calabria. After the screening, the journalist Bolzoni (of La Repubblica) and his colleague frmo L’Espresso Lirio Abbate, repeatedly threatened and therefore under police protection, spoke about their experience as investigative journalists and the differences between the field survey and one based on the content of case files and court documents.
On May 17, in Cosenza, the Press Club “Maria Rosaria Sessa” in collaboration with Ossigeno per l’Informazione, the Association of European Journalists (AGE) and the Order of Journalists of Calabria, organized the conference “Wiretaps and the right to inform”, where not only the draft legislation that seeks to limit the publication of this content in the newspapers but also the faults and mistakes of journalists were debated, as well as the need to act with greater rigor, with independent judgment and countenance.
In the foreground – On May 19, the National Council of the Order of Journalists, the body that holds the Register of Journalists, has asked the institutions to monitor and punish those responsible for the threats and acts of intimidation against journalists. Expressing “deep concern and indignation”, the Council also urged the institutions “to a heightened vigilance and a punctual monitoring of the territory” to clarify some incidents occurred in Campania and Calabria.
On May 13, in the space of a few hours, two ministers – Maria Elena Boschi (Reforms), and Pier Carlo Padoan (Economics): the first in Catania, the second in Rome – have refused to answer questions from journalists. These are two episodes that are intended to “attempt to prevent journalists from carrying out their functions in the interest of citizens,” as said by Giuseppe Federico Mennella, secretary of Ossigeno per l’Informazione.
Even who writes on a blog, if he produces information, must follow the same rules which journalists are subjected to. At the same time, however, it enjoys the same rights of the latter. This was stated by the Privacy Guarantor (the national body that protects the confidentiality of the information and sensitive personal data), which declared unfounded the appeal of a well-known public figure who had called for the removal of an article in which sentimental and judicial stories relating to him were recounted.
The Maniàci Case – The chief editor of the local TV Telejato in Partinico (in the province of Palermo), Pino Maniàci – known for his services on the Mafia – is being investigated by prosecutors in Palermo on charges of extortion and alleged simulation of having suffered an act of intimidation thorugh the killing of his dogs. That episode had been considered by Ossigeno a retaliation because of his journalistic activities. Today, after seeing a video released by the investigators where Maniàci himself states that his dogs were not killed by the mafia but by a love rival, the Observatory has decided to remove the episode from the table and counter.
Threat Incidents – Ersilio Mattioni, chief editor of the online magazine Altomilanese and collaborator of fattoquotidiano.it, was the victim of three acts of intimidation within three months. It happened in Arconate (in Lombardy). In the night between 15 and 16 May unknown persons damaged his car. Similar incidents had occurred in March and April. The journalist has been working for several years on the alleged malfeasance of the Lombard political world and carries out investigations on the ‘Ndrangheta.
On April 13, the Facebook page and the website of the online newspaper La Voce di Venezia were hit by a hacker attack: as comments to articles, photographs by the gruesome content were posted, branded Insane-Army.
Aggressions and insults – Laura Bonasera and Sirio Timossi, reporters of the investigation television show Piazza Pulita (broadcast on La7) were attacked on April 27 by some farmers in Sabaudia (in the Lazio region) as they pursued a service on the exploitation of foreign workers in the countryside of the Agro Pontino.
On April 28th five journalists from different newspapers were attacked by far-right militants. It happened at the end of a church service to commemorate the death of Benito Mussolini in the San Fernando church in Naples. The reporters, whom participants wanted to prevent from shooting the rite, were insulted and shoved, and also their equipment was affected.
On May 7th Emiliano Carillo, videographer for the SIComunicazione agency, was attacked by four men while he was at Molo Luise in the port of Naples to get shots after the death of a man inside his boat. The attackers have thrown the camera overboard and Carillo ended up in hospital.
On May 5, the reporter Marilena Natale (correspondent for the TV network PiuenneNews) and the freelance Nicola Baldieri denounced a verbal aggression – which took place on the same day – by two women in Grazzanise (in the Campania region) as they pursued a service on the arrest of eight people as part of an investigation into alleged infiltration Casalesi clan of the Camorra in the municipal administration of the township.
Sport – In recent monthly reports we noted the large number of incidents of threats that sports journalists tend to receiv. Even in this latest period such events have not been amiss. On April 24th, Mario Borraccino, reporter of a local TV broadcaster from Puglia (TeleSveva) during the football game Casarano- Barletta, was insulted by some fans, who prevented him from realizing the commentary of the match. According to the fans, Borraccino would have discredited their team in the story of the previous sporting event.
Andrea Rapino, reporter for the newspaper of Abruzzo Il Centro was heavily insulted and threatened by Franco Maio, honorary president of the Virtus Lanciano football club. It happened at the end of the football match against Avellino on April 30, while the journalist, from the stadium press box of Lanciano, was photographing the protest of the fans of the home team against company executives.
Gian Paolo Maini, chief editor of the online magazine Parlando di Sport, was assaulted and threatened by Ivan Provedel, player of Modena, and from the team president. It happened on May 14, in the stadium press room of the Emilian city, after the game against Pescara. Provedel did not like the negative score for a recent performance the journalist assigned him on a website report card.
Complaints – This type of acts of intimidation against those who provide information is one of the most widespread. It is often carried out by individuals. As in the case of the journalist Gianni Montesano (collaborator of Ossigeno), which faces two trials for “failure to control” the offense under Italian law according to which the chief editor of a newspaper can be held liable for negligence for the defamatory content of a publication. Montesano has to answer in civil and criminal proceedings – after being acquitted in both cases, in the first instance – for the content of articles that appeared in the weekly magazine La Rinascita della Sinistra, which he edited and which was closed in 2010, and whose property has dissolved.
Municipal authorities against journalists – Sometimes – many times – the complaints come from public bodies, often by municipalities. The costs of legal fees naturally falls on the shoulders of citizens.
On May 13, Raffaele Russo, Mayor of Pomigliano D’Arco (in the Campania region), announced that he had filed a complaint against the journalist Pino Neri, of the newspaper Il Mattino, for an article published two days earlier in which he told that Pomigliano is among the municipalities under the supervision of the Prefecture of Naples due to the risk of Camorra infiltrations. “Rather than deny the news, the mayor has used a public institution to send me a warning”, the reporter told Ossigeno.
On May 17th, the city council of Lecce (in the Puglia region) has given mandato to a lawyer to sue for defamation the journalist Danilo Lupo, collaborator of La7, for having published on his Facebook page a text which criticized the eviction, decided by the City, of a community center from a degraded public building occupied and put to good use by a group of citizens.
On May 19, Mario Marcellini, a candidate in the municipal elections in June in Nettuno (in the province of Rome), has sent a warning to Valerio Pizziconi, Claudio Pelagallo and Roberta Sciamanna, respectively owner, director and editor in chief of the online magazine Inliberauscita, for an article of 18 May. Marcellini believes to have been defamed by the text, which would discredit his political activity.
Also the municipality of Monte San Vito (in the province of Ancona), announced on May 19th of wanting to sue the journalist Francesco Mandolini for an article published on his blog two days before. In the text, according to the mayor (who announced the decision on Facebook) the journalist would have attributed to him the closure of local hospital services and the failure of a health project.
The Agenzia delle Entrate, the national public body that manages contributions (or the Italian version of the IRS), has threatened to sue the satirical newscast of Canale 5 Striscia La Notizia. The Agency laments “a smear campaign” against it after the airing of services on citizens’ hardships.
Judgments by the courts – In this context encouraging news for freedom of the press are not lacking: there are in fact different judgments that have recently acknowledged the correctness of the work of journalists accused of libel and to whom were often demanded high-value compensations. The exception is the case of Pietro Comito, sentenced in March for libel (because of two articles published in 2010 on the daily Calabria Ora, about a murder; in the first instance, the journalist and his colleague Ilario Filippone, were acquitted). Now, the motivations for judgment have been disclosed: according to the judges, the reporter told Ossigeno, “I should have written that the subject had been released from prison, but in the piece in question I didn’t even talk about the arrest.”
On April 8, Piero Camilli, president of the Grosseto football team, was convicted for having insulted and threatened on the phone (in 2012) Matteo Alfieri, journalist of La Nazione, author of a paper he did not like.
The Court of Milan acquitted the Corriere della Sera journalist Fiorenza Sarzanini and former chief editor of the daily Ferruccio De Bortoli (who responded of omitted control) from charges of libel against former police deputy chief Nicola Izzo. According to the judges, the journalist has legitimately exercised the freedom of the press, writing some articles on a story that called into question Izzo concerning anonymous complaints with which allegations of malfeasance related to contracts for the purchase of technological material by the Interior Ministry were denounced.
On April 26, the judge of the Court of Bergamo acquitted of libel Giangavino Sulas and Umberto Brindani, respectively journalist and chief editor of the magazine Oggi. They were sued in 2010 by a prosecutor who had been investigating a series of murders committed in the 90s (those of the so-called “Monster of Florence”). The magistrate was quoted in a 2010 article regarding the acquittal of 22 persons accused by him of the crime of conspiracy. On the same day the judge for the preliminary investigations of the Court of Patti (Sicily) has sent to the archives a libel case against the journalists Nuccio Carrara and Giuseppe Lazzaro, sued in June 2014 by a woman irritated by two articles concerning him. According to the court, however, the journalists have respected the limits imposed on freedom of the press (substantial truth of the news, in the appropriate social context and expressive countenance). Also on 26 April the Court of Velletri rejected the request for compensation for damages from the former mayor of Marino and current Regional Councilor of the Lazio region, Adriano Palozzi, against Stefano Carugno, editor in chief of the weekly Il Caffè di Velletri, of the publishing company Medium Srl and Davide Scarinci, author of an article – published in 2009 – relating to a case of illegal building. The plaintiff had asked for 50 thousand euro in damages, but the judge ruled out the defamatory nature of the piece.
The Court of Cassation rejected the opposition to the archiviation of a libel lawsuit filed in 2008 against the journalist of Latina Oggi Graziella Di Mambro and the chief editor of the newspaper Alessandro Pangutti. The promoter of the legal action – which must also pay court costs – felt defamed by an article criticizing his work in a local authority.
On May 6, the Court of Lecce rejected the claim for damages (250 thousand euro) advanced by former President of the Puglia Region Raffaele Fitto, against the journalist Lino De Matteis, author of the unauthorized biography of the politician (Il Governatore, The Governor, Glocal Editrice , 2004). For the judge, the complaint is “baseless.”
On April 14, the judge for the preliminary hearing of the Court of L’Aquila has sent to the archives a libel suit against the journalist Luisa Stifani, editor in chief of the online newspaper L’Impronta. The lawsuit was filed by a tax collection company, after a few articles that criticized her, telling also of the alleged pressures carried out by its employees during the collection at the expense of taxpayers. The court held that the right of freedom of the press was respected.
On May 10 the blogger Marco Belviso, former site manager of Il Perbenista, was acquitted from the charge of libel “because the crime does not exist”. In 2014 he was being sued by a man mentioned in his article, which did not like to be called by the nickname “granddad Edi.”
On the same day the Court of Santa Maria Capua Vetere (in the province of Caserta) rejected the claim for damages for breach of privacy against Antonella Russo, a reporter who on the blog Caiazzo Rinasce had told of a robbery suffered by a man, specifying name, surname and company for which he worked. He had not liked the publication of such sensitive data, but, according to the court, they can be disclosed by journalists in the exercise of freedom of the press.
The National Press Federation (FNSI), the Italian journalists’ union, decided to be a claimant in the Catania trial against a mob boss (Gionbattista Ventura) blamed for death threats addressed to journalist Paolo Borrometi, collaborator of the press agency AGI.
On July 7th the Campobasso Court will rule on the defamation lawsuit filed by a judge against a former regional secretary of the Democratic Party and the journalist Silvano Barone of the TGR Abruzzo, the regional outlet of the public broadcaster RAI. The magistrate feels harmed by a statement by the politician, of which the journalist had reported the sentences in a service.
The ruling on libel from the Rome Civil District Court against the reporters of the monthly La Voce delle Voci, Andrea Cinquegrani and Rita Pennarola, will instead be issued after the summer. Assisted by the legal one-stop-shop of Ossigeno, they risk having to pay 430 thousand euro in damages to a magistrate who feels vilified by some articles from 2012, which said that he had been the honorary president of a research center in which worked a man who had been at the center of a major judicial inquiry.
May in numbers
In May 2016, Ossigeno per l’Informazione has reported 27 incidents of threats and acts of intimidation against media workers. The counter, which records in the Table of the victims of intimidation and abuse the cases confirmed since 2006, thus reaches 2860 victims. Since January 1, 2016 187 names have been added to Table.
The types of intimidation include: Attacks Mild and Severe, Warnings, Insults, Damage to goods and personal items or work tools, Abuses of the Law, Lawsuit for libel deemed specious, lawsuit from a magistrate also deemed specious, Summon for damages considered instrumental.
According to Ossigeno estimates, for every known and documented act of intimidation there are at least ten others that remain unknown even to the Observatory, because the victims do not have the strength to make them public.
Links to cases of intimidation and the most relevant news
They had been pressuring Sabrina Pignedoli and Gabriele Franzini. Applause from ODG and ASER for the judgments in the Emilian ‘Ndrangheta trial
In 2012 Piero Camilli had insulted and threatened on the phone Matteo Alfieri, journalist for La Nazione, for writing about the dispute with Urbano Cairo, patron of Torino Football Club.
Laura Bonasera, reporter for Piazza Pulita (a TV show broadcast on La7) and the video maker Sirio Timossi have been the victims of an assault during a television report on the condition of Indian and Pakistani workers in the Pontine Marshes.
News and comments can be published, even without consent, provided that the rights, the freedoms and the dignity of the person object of the writing are respected
Gruesome pictures published on the news site’s web page, identified by the Insane-Army logo. The chief editor: “The distress was for the readers”
The TeleSveva journalist Mario Borraccino was also insulted during the match Casarano – Barletta. Solidarity from Ussi and Assostampa Puglia
A new online documentation center offers free documents on press freedom produced by associations and organizations across Europe
Acquittal sentence in the first degree appealed by the Attorney General. Alleged failure to rectify an article never published. Announced an appeal to the Supreme Court
The director of the public body has denounced “a smear campaign” by the satirical news outlet. The issue related to the services on the hardships of taxpayers
Extreme right Militants have insulted them and shoved them at the end of the mass service. Involved FanPage, Alanews, Lastampa.it, CNOwebtv and Vista
For Giangavino Sulas and Umberto Brindani the public prosecutor had asked a prison sentence. The lawsuit for a 2010 article on the investigation on the “Monster” of Florence
“Let him explain the ridiculous vanity of his words,” the deputy chairman of the Anti-Mafia Commission wrote on Facebook, referring to eavesdropping
10 years after the case, Gianni Montesano, former chief editor of La Rinascita, already acquitted, faces two trials call for “omitted due diligence”
It was was established by the Court of Patti. For the magistrate, Nuccio Carrara and Giuseppe Lazzaro respected the freedom of the press. The facts date back to 2014
Emiliano Carillo ended up in hospital after being hit in the face with a helmet and kicked by four people. Solidarity from ODG Campania, SUGC and UGIV
Marilena Natale and Nicola Baldieri have reported the facts to the police. To threaten them with a complaint and to hamper the filming were two women
He’s a bartender now. The Civil Court rejected the request for 50 thousand euro in damages from former mayor Adriano Palozzi for an article on Il Caffè
Andrea Rapino’s “fault” (of Il Centro) was to photograph the protest of fans against the Virtus Lanciano management. Solidarity from regional ODG
The judge of the Court of Lecce considered unfounded the complaint by Raffaele Fitto. Lino De Matteis is the author of the unauthorized biography Il Governatore (“The Governor”)
To challenge the articles by the journalist Luisa Stifani was Soget, tax collection company. For the magistrate of L’Aquila, right to report was respected
The former chief editor of Il Perbenista (The Politically Correct) was sued for having given notice of a dinner between the manager of a regional agency and a senator
The victim of the theft had claimed damages after the publishing of an article in which his details were given. The Judge rejects the plea
On July 7th, 2016 in Campobasso will be issued the sentence for defamation of the prosecutor Nicola Trifuoggi, which sees as defendants Silvio Paolucci, former regional secretary of the Democratic Party, and the journalist Silvano Barone of TGR Abruzzo of RAI.
The incidents occurred in Catania and Rome. The Economy Minister was at a training seminar for journalists
Ersilio Mattioni has received three acts of intimidation within three months. The latest dates back to the night of 15 and 16 May. The journalist already threatened in 2012
This was said during a session of the City Council. On Il Mattino, Pino Neri had written that the institution is under review for possible Camorra infiltrations
The politician apologized to Roberta Sciamanna, so as to avoid a legal action. The journalist published an article on Inliberauscita ahead of the vote on 5 June
Here you can do anything if you can find an agreement, he wrote. The mayor and councilors have instructed a lawyer to proceed against him. One thousand signatures of solidarity on change.org
Gian Paolo Maini had given a bad score on the players’ performance. The Police had to intervene. Solidarity from ODG Emilia Romagna
Francesco Mandolini had criticized the inefficiencies related to the Emergency Room of Chiaravalle. The town council of Monte San Vito believed to have been defamed
Along with the former chief editor De Bortoli in 2012, she was accused of defamation by former police chief Nicola Izzo for an article about allegations of criminal activities within the Interior Ministry
The Supreme Court confirmed the inadmissibility of the complaint lodged by the public company
Two journalists, assisted by Ossigeno-MLDI, are accused of defamation for facts that haven’t been denied. Former prosecutor of Grosseto asks 430 thousand euro
The journalist Marco Capuano has been defined by the president of the club a “street corner vendor” that harms his city. Solidarity from the provincial section of the USSI
Jacopo Norfo has published an inquiry into the recruitment of public administrators in Cagliari made of relatives and friends of politicians of the SEL party. The director of the news outlet: “Assault on Freedom”
Massimo Franchi has sued the CEO who had sent him a disciplinary dispute for having exceeded the right to criticize
Claudio Cordova, editor of Il Dispaccio, has been targeted in the comments to a post by Giuseppe Agliano, former councilor of Reggio Calabria, announcing a legal action