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More prison for libel. Two years to chief editor “Roma”

Pasquale Clemente, sued in 2010 by a senator, was sentenced on June 3 in Nola (Naples). Disproportionate sentence, say FNSI and Ossigeno

Two years in prison and a 1500 euro fine: this conviction that the Single-Judge of the Criminal Court of Nola (in the province of Naples) handed down on June 3, 2016, to the journalist Pasquale Clemente, former chief editor of the Gazzetta di Caserta and currently editor in chief of the newspaper “Roma” of Naples.

Clemente was convicted of libel, with the aggravating circumstance of the attribution of a given fact (Art. 13 of the press law n.47 / 48), to Pasquale Giuliano, former judge and senator of the PDL at the time. On July 22, 2010 Giuliano had sued the journalist for an article published on April 30, 2010 – edited by the same Clemente – and entitled: “La squallida manovra di Costantino per distruggere Zinzi e tornare a votare subito” (“The squalid maneuver by Costantino to destroy Zinzi and go back to voting immediately”). The lawsuit related to several articles, but the offending piece was only that of April 30th, explains Dario Vannetiello, Clemente’s defender.

In that article, the chief editor opens a strong political debate, pungently and irreverently. “A province like ours – he writes – can not afford to blow up the first Provincial Council …. A shame ratified by the presence-as-a-threat in the courtroom of two parliamentary politicians like Coronella and Giuliano, who had nothing to do with anything”.

“I am baffled by the behavior of the judiciary – Pasquale Clemente said to Ossigeno after the conviction – because instead of dealing with criminals, they sentence a thought offence”.

The prison sentence was criticized by leaders of the FNSI, the president Giuseppe Giulietti and the secretary Raffaele Lorusso, and by the secretary of the Union of Journalists of Campania, Claudio Silvestri. In the joint statement the sentence is defined as “not acceptable and not even worthy of a civilized country. Journalists – the statement said – do not ask for special protections nor for impunity. Imprisonment is a disproportionate measure, as well as a surreptitious form of gag to information”.

The lawyer of Mr Clemente announced that Giuliano had also claimed damages in a criminal procedure, and has also advanced a claim for damages before the Judge of the Civil Court. The civil case is still pending.

OSSIGENO’S COMMENT – The Secretary General of Ossigeno, Giuseppe Federico Mennella said: “In his article, Pasquale Clemente, former chief editor of Gazzetta di Caserta, hasn’t spared adjectives nor heavy judgments and probably his political and journalistic controversy went over the top. But this, nor even more serious crimes, justify a prison sentence, and two years of it at that. In these cases, there is an obvious disproportion between crime and penalty, as the European institutions are not tired of repeating. Also, the judgment reminds us how exposed the responsible editors are, by way of their very function, to the recurrence of the offense. Indeed, the prison sentence was based on the grounds that the journalist has committed the same offense more than once five years before. The judgment by the Court of Nola reminds us that in Parliament a bill which calls for the abolition of prison for journalists has been sleeping for three years”.

RDM

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