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Ossigeno legal protection. Roccuzzo acquitted, he acted in good faith

He was misled by a qualified source who had requested clarification. He was defended by the lawyer Di Pietro, of the Observatory’s Legal Office

A journalist who, acting in good faith, publishes a correction containing an error that damages the reputation of someone does not have to answer, for this, of defamation: it is the principle of law according to which the magistrate of Rome, Rosalba Liso, has closed the proceedings against the journalist Antonio Roccuzzo, editor-in-chief of the TG La7. In essence, according to the order, a journalist is not responsible for what is written in rectification, because in this context it assumes the role of mere nuncius (i.e. messenger), with the only limitation that it should not publish corrections containing statements that appear immediately and independently detrimental to the reputation of third parties.

The trial showed the innocence of the journalist, whose defense had been assumed by Ossigeno per l’Informazione through the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro. The investigating judge, fully accepting the defensive line, recognized the excusability of the error due to the reliability of the subject who had requested the correction. In fact, it was a qualified source, whose explanations were not syndicated by the journalist. In addition, the investigating magistrate Rosalba Liso acknowledged the absence of malice and the good faith of Roccuzzo, also testified by the fact that he had published the correction immediately, apologizing to the person mistakenly involved in a story of mafia infiltration.

Roccuzzo was investigated for defamation via Internet against Ines Sartori, deputy city secretary of Brescello (in the province of Reggio Emilia), for an article published on June 13, 2015 on his blog hosted by the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano. The text told about the age-old story of Donato Ungaro, an urban policeman of the Municipality of Brescello and correspondent of a local newspaper, fired 14 years earlier for telling the mafia infiltration in the local authority.

In fact, the City of Brescello was dissolved because of an attested Mafia presence, but only in 2016. Fighting back against being fired, Ungaro filed a lawsuit against the city administration, obtaining after 14 years a final sentence of reinstatement in his workplace. The article published by Roccuzzo in 2015 concerned the story of Ungaro and the mafia infiltration both in the Municipality of Brescello and in that of Viadana. The two towns are neighbors. At the time of publication of that article, the municipal council of Viadana had already been dissolved and on that of Brescello the prefecture was investigating. In the text it is written, among other things, that the vice-municipal secretary of Viadana “is also a collaborator of the Municipality of Brescello”. On this point the municipal secretary of Viadana, Antonino Lembo, asked Roccuzzo, by telephone, to rectify.

The rectification published by Roccuzzo, however, inexactly called Ines Sartori, who had been chairman of the City Council and then councilor of the Municipality of Viadana, and simultaneously employee of the Municipality of Brescello in 2003, of which she later became deputy secretary. In the rectification published at the request of Antonino Lembo, it was written that Ms Sartori – pointed at without being named clearly – had resigned as councilwoman of Viadana “for scandals and other stories”. However, this was not true, as she had resigned the year before the dissolution and with a justification of political incompatibility with the administration in office. On this basis, Ines Sartori had filed a lawsuit for slander against Roccuzzo, complaining that she was wrongly indicated as a member of the municipal council of Viadana dissolved by the Prefect for infiltration of organized crime.

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