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Ilva. Rivas ask for 2 million to the Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno

Cited in court the reporter Mimmo Mazza, chief editor and publisher. Protests from FNSI and Assostampa Puglia. Ossigeno’s opinion on settlements and guilt

The Ilva case and the investigation known as “undersold environment” on the pollution in Taranto is a complex legal case, and to look too deep in it is risky. It so happened to Mimmo Mazza, a journalist of the Gazzetta del Mezziogiorno, cited for damages by Claudio Riva for writing an article (read) on a settlement request presented by the Ilva complex. The citation also invests the chief editor of the Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, Giuseppe De Tomaso, and Edisud, publishing company of the newspaper.

Riva’s lawyers have asked for a 550 thousand euro compensation for each of the four damaged parties (Riva Forni Elettrici S.P.A., Claudio Riva, Fabio Arturo Riva, and Nicola Riva) signatories of the citation. In total, they ask for 2 million and 200 thousand euro, jointly to the three parties sued.

They tones and titles of the piece are challenged and the journalists accused of aggravated libel due to the description of a specific fact by claiming that “the plea bargain is not a confession.” The FNSI with Assostampa Puglia, has instead criticized the judicial initiative by Ilva and expressed solidarity with the journalists.

The author of the article, Mimmo Mazza, is considered a victim of the paradoxical accusation. “It seems to me – he tells Ossigeno – a clear act of intimidation. I want to remember that one of the accusations leveled at the trial on the Ilva case is to have manipulated the mass media so as to keep a low attention on the level of emissions; it seems paradoxical that now someone who has not been manipulated is cited in court. ”

The investigation by the Prosecutor of Taranto on the Ilva involves the entire senior management: in 2012 the smelting center has been impounded and then seized by the judiciary for environmental disaster, pollution and more. The intertwining of trials and international rogatory letters concerning the harmful emissions of Ilva into the environment, the failure to put it into safety and the unlawful appropriation of large sums of money. A small portion relates to Claudio Riva, a member of the family of entrepreneurs who since 1995 has run the steel mill.

Claudio Riva is the legal representative of the company Riva Forni Elettrici, a company founded in 2012, in the aftermath of the judicial investigation, and from the splitting of Riva FIRE, in turn parent company of Ilva. On 6 December 2016, the Riva Forni Elettrici company, accused of committing several administrative offenses, has asked the Court of Assizes of Taranto to bargain the procedural position to the tune of one million euro. On 18 January 2017, the Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno reported this news with evidence, citing the application for settlement. From that article, which begins with the phrase “A Riva member admits responsibility of his family in the management of Ilva”, arose the particular challenge to the proximity, considered intentionally harmful, of the “plea bargaining” and the “admission of guilt”, and as such the headlining and the whole article. No adjustment was requested. On July 3 the first hearing is scheduled.

THE FACTS – In the citation, Claudio Riva legals reconstruct the whole story summarily and report the 31 accusations involving dozens of defendants. They do this to emphasize that the Riva Forni Elettrici is responsible for only one of the charges and only in that context the name of Claudio Riva appears as a representative of the company founded by Riva FIRE in the aftermath of the investigation. In his article, Mazza had dwelt on the need for Riva Forni Elettrici to get out, through plea bargaining, from a trial that promises to be long and complex. The plea bargain request is a fine of one million euro.

In the request for plea bargain, as cited in the same writ of summons, the role of Riva Forni Elettrici is quoted, in the complex legal case, both for the mechanisms that lead to administrative offenses and for environmental damages, even if for a limited period of time, since the company was founded in 2012, while the Riva management dates back to 1995.

The article, which contains excerpts of the plea bargaining, however, is accused of fraudulently forcing the hand, both in the text and in the layout, so as to cause a serious reputational damage. “It is true, we polluted – Claudio Riva admits responsibility in the plea agreement – in the signed document (Riva) he marries the accusation hypothesis of the prosecution,” this title, summary and caption of the Gazzetta. As well as the interpretation of “plea bargaining” is disputed, since the Riva’s lawyers stress that, case law in their hands, it does not constitute an admission of liability or guilt. “The plea bargain is not a confession or admission of guilt,” they write in the citation.

Ossigeno’s comment

“Beyond the specifics of this story – the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro, coordinator of Ossigeno’s Office of Legal Assistance, says – it is possible to say that the plea bargain cannot be considered formally an admission of liability, although in essence it is so. We rarely see an innocent person negotiate, even though theoretically it is possible. The reason lies in the summary nature of the procedure. However, I think that it is journalistically legitimate to deduce responsibilities before a plea bargain. Indeed, although it may not be considered a true sentence of culpability, even the plea bargain has almost all the criminal effects of the same: a plea bargain (for criminal offenses) will be written on the so-called criminal record ‘as used by Justice’ (but not ‘as used by private persons’) and, if the accused can not enjoy other benefits (probation, amnesty, pardon …), it will still be forced to pay the agreed penalty or cope with the administrative sanction as appropriate. ”

The FNSI and Assostampa Puglia intervened on the subject with a joint statement (read): “It is the last frontier of intimidation to journalists: it seeks damages for publishing an act not covered by investigation secrecy. The case is yet another demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of the gagging complaints in a short time” Raffaele Lorusso and Giuseppe Giulietti, general secretary and president of FNSI, commented with Bepi Martellotta, President of Assostampa Puglia.

Of the tense relations between the Riva and the Media, Ossigeno has covered several news cases in the past.

GM

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