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Italy. The most dangerous news by Ossigeno. October 2016

This monthly review of acts of 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


In October 2016, Ossigeno per l’Informazione verified 150 cases of probable threats, intimidation and abuse that took place in Italy against journalists, bloggers and other media workers.
After thorough evaluation, the staff judged as credible 40 episodes against media professionals (19 men, 6 women and 15 n/d). The Observatory has documented these episodes, publicised  them  and added the names of those threatened to its table of victims of serious violations of freedom of expression and of the press. This table, which is available online, see LINK, lists 3026 names, 353 of which were added during the first 305 days of 2016.

Each episode has been fully investigated and analyzed. Each has been made public by the Observatory with news, analysis and commentary published on the web site www.notiziario.ossigeno.info and disseminated through weekly newsletters in Italian and English. The most relevant cases were also signaled to press rooms of specific media through targeted press releases.

For this purpose. Ossigeno has published 155 original news stories including 58 in English and 23 regarding incidents of threats or abuse. 5 weekly newsletters in Italian and 6 in English were released.

The entire Ossigeno staff worked also

  • to organize the celebration in Roma of the International Day To End Impunity for crimes against journalists
  • to organize the first edition of the Premio Ossigeno Paolo Mario Grego that in October will be awarded to three authors of M.A. theses about freedom of the press and censorship in Western countries. The first prize is one thousand five hundred euro and the other one thousand euro.The authors of a master’s thesis whose dissertation was held from January 2015 to July 2016 in the Universities of Rome La Sapienza, Tor Vergata, Roma Tre, Luiss and Lumsa are eligible for the Premio. The awards will be presented to the winners by the end of October of 2016 at a public ceremony
  • to organize the scheduled conference to celebrate at the Italian Senate the International Day To End Impunity for crimes against journalists
  • to renew the agreement with MLDI Media Legal Defence Initiative foundation that enables Ossigeno to give legal assistance to journalists hit with specious allegations
  • to obtain from Government officials hitherto unpublished data on judicial processes for libel

Bad News. See the October weekly reports

October 3. http://notiziario.ossigeno.info/2016/10/bad-news-thursday-september-22-2-75395/

October 7. http://notiziario.ossigeno.info/2016/10/bad-news-thursday-october-7-75399/

October 15. http://notiziario.ossigeno.info/2016/10/bad-news-friday-october-7-75404/

October 21. http://notiziario.ossigeno.info/2016/10/bad-news-thursday-october-13-75408/

Special Report to CERD

INCITEMENT TO RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND RACIAL HATRED IN ITALY THROUGH MEDIA – Special report by OSSIGENO PER L’INFORMAZIONE to the CERD (United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) to enlighten the side of the hate speech’s Italian legislation that attains freedom of the media (see more details at the bottom):

Considering all Concluding Observations of the Committee of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to Italy in 2012;

Given that the Italian Government submitted its report, under article 9 of the Convention XIX to XX Periodic Reports of States Parties, in 2015;

Considering the last Recommendations to Italy contained in the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council in 2010 and 2014;

Considering that the Committee of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination will review Italy in the next 91st Session, and precisely the 1st of December 2016,

OSSIGENO PER L’INFORMAZIONE would like to submit to the Committee of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) the following special report with regard to incitement to racial discrimination and racial hatred in Italy through media.

With reference to paragraph 120: As far as the right to freedom of opinion and expression, linked with the freedom of the press, they are all protected by the Italian Basic Law in its article 21, which sets forth: “Anyone has the right to freely express their thoughts in speech, writing, or any other form of communication. The press may not be subjected to any authorisation or censorship […]”.)

Italy has maintained its commitment to introduce more effective sanctions against incitement to discrimination and to racial hatred with Law 115/2016 (text is available on http://www.normattiva.it/uri-res/N2Ls ? urn: nir: state: law: 2016; 115) on the prevention of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, enacted in June 16, 2016, which introduces an aggravated punishment for those guilty of propaganda or instigation and incitement to discrimination and racial hatred. But the approval of the text of this law, which contains altogether 135 words, took six years of parliamentary scrutiny and four different readings, two of the Chamber of Deputies and two of the Senate.

It is worth noting that the iter has been slowed by the atmosphere of paralyzing conflict between two factions with opposing views of the value and limits of freedom of expression. This clash is political and cultural and for years it has prevented to regulate in a fuller and more organic circulation of information, ideas and opinions in a fair and balanced way, defending those who spread information in the public interest and in accordance with the truth and punishing those who hinder instead the exercise of this right and also the abusers.

In Italy it is difficult to get a proper protection of the right of opinion, expression and press for various reasons. It is hard to fully assert this right firstly because citizens generally do not know it neither claim for it, nor they are aware of the serious violations that occur and the damage that such violations cause to their participation in public life, limiting it. Still a culture contrary to the full unfolding of dialogue and freedom of expression, opinion and the press is prevailing. It is a historical problem that continues to manifest itself in the political and parliamentary orientations and also in the case-law that, in this matter, is often dissonant compared to the more open the ECHR.

The contrast affects in a restraining manner on all issues relating to the protection of fundamental rights and values. In the parliamentary debate which ended positively, with the approval of Law 115/2016 the contrast involved precisely the way to regulate this matter without introducing a new crime of opinion that would be added to those coming from the body of laws passed during the fascist dictatorship, still in force.

Among other things, the contrast on the interpretation of the right of expression prevents since decades the Italian Parliament to correct, in a consistent manner with the European law, the criminal law that punishes libel with prison, with disproportionate and without a proper balance between the right to information and the right to defend the personal reputation, as has been observed by the most authoritative international organizations. It is evident since long time, and has been recognized by the Parliament itself, that some legislative changes are necessary and cannot be postponed because the current rules allow those who wish to prevent the dissemination of information and legitimate opinions of him unwelcomed to abuse of justice, to make it an intimidating instrument of retaliation for its purpose.

The phenomenon occurs since many years, it greatly limits public debate, it has had sensational displays that have attracted criticism and calls on Italy of the highest national authorities and international organizations.

The Osservatorio indipendente “Ossigeno per l’Informazione (see www.notiziario.ossigeno.info) has produced a wide public presentation of this phenomenon, documenting over a thousand episodes of judicial abuses that occurred from 2006 to 2016, in addition to other two thousand incidents of violent and concrete attacks occurred in the same timeframe. This documentation is known to the Italian Parliament and international organizations.

In addition, on October 24, 2016, the same Osservatorio has provided an even more current, more dramatic and complete framework of the distorted use that is made of the judicial machinery through the abuses undisputed of the libel suits. This framework is contained in a report based on official unpublished data obtained from the Ministry of Justice.

See the English dossier “Shut up or I’ll Its you!” at http://notiziario.ossigeno.info/2016/10/impunity- the-gag-to-information-dossier-by-ossigeno-74135/

These are the essential figures of the Report: in 2015 in Italy the courts have treated 6813 cases for libel, 5902 of which as criminal cases, mostly against journalists, and have defined the 87% with acquittals . The sentences were 477, i.e. 8%. Of these 155 custodial sentences, each of which, on average, has not exceeded one year in prison.

Overall, in 2015, prison sentences for 103 years of imprisonment were handed borne by journalists recognized guilty of libel, with a strong chilling effect on freedom of information. With these data, the report made by Ossigeno has thus revealed that legal proceedings for libel are largely based on unfounded accusations, exaggerated, spurious and that a proper law should prevent them or discourage them. Instead these lawsuits start and spend from 2.5 to more than six years for the first trial, forcing journalists charged to incur into substantial legal costs (at least 54 million euro per year), expenditure which in most cases is charged on their personal budget and almost always remains on them, even for nine out of ten that the court acquits from charges.

The Report of Ossigeno also highlights that in 2015 911 civil cases were initiated with claims for damages from alleged libel. The average claim was € 50,000. The total demand only in 2015 amounted to 45.6 million euro. The President of the Senate Pietro Grasso, defined these “alarming” data and has thanked Ossigeno for having provided , through its active monitoring, “objective evidence on which to reflect, on which to calibrate the actions that will have to be taken.”

The authors of the Report entrusted the Parliament with it stressing that it shows a picture of the reality and it reveals a much more dramatic scenery than the one previously known and referred to by the proposed libel law the Parliament is discussing since 2013 and that, in the light of the situation now known, it does not offer adequate solutions.

The report was sent as a “Submission of information with reference to CERD documents released in occasion of the 91st Session held from 21 November to 9 December 2012 in Geneve”, and in connection with the consideration of
the nineteenth -twentieth consolidated periodic reports of Italy. The report was submitted to the CERD Secretariat through the “Comitato per la promozione e protezione dei diritti umani”, an Italian Ngos’ consortium that include “Ossigeno per l’Informazione” . It was submitted together with other reports signed by ANANKE Onlus , ASGI (Associazione Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione), Associazione 21 Luglio, CGIL, FISH ( Federazione Italiana per il Superamento dell’Handicap) and DPI ( Disabled Peoples’ International), LAW – Legal Assistance Worldwide,  MEDU – Medici per i diritti umani, 
Prodocs , VIS –Volontariato Internazionale per lo sviluppo.

OSSIGENO per l’informazione is an observatory monitoring threatened journalists and news overshadowed by violence in Italy.The Observatory was launched in 2008 by FNSI, (National Federation of the Italian Press, the single journalists’ union) and the Ordine Nazionale dei Giornalisti (the Italian order of the journalists), together with the non-profit organisations in defence of press freedom Libera Informazione, Unione Nazionale Cronisti Italiani and Articolo 21. The name OSSIGENO (Oxygen in English) is symbolic: it conveys the message that information needs freedom and protection to perform its role of watchdog of democracy. OSSIGENO aims to document all the Italian cases of violent or abusive limitations on freedom of expression against journalists, writers, intellectuals, politicians, trade unionists, public officials and other citizens, paying special attention to what goes on, in information field, in the areas where the influence of criminal organisations is strong and deeply rooted. The Observatory performs continuous monitoring of threatened journalists, telling their stories through the online newspaper notiziario.ossigeno.info and in annual reports, published in different languages: the 2011/2012 one was translated into English, German, Spanish and Chinese. Ossigeno web page shows a table of journalists threatened. In April 2014 in the table are listed over 1800 names. Until some year ago, no one wanted to admit that in Italy there were journalists threatened. The monitoring of oxygen brought the issue in the public arena. OSSIGENO also promotes public initiatives in order to enhance the visibility of the threats, to strengthen solidarity with threatened journalists and to spread awareness among the public about the right to be fully informed, in an impartial way.

Rome, 31 October 2016

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