Ossigeno per l’Informazione since 2006 has been recording, analyzing and recounting cases of threats against media workers and attempts to obscure news of public interest in Italy. It has done so by honing its methodology over time in order to reproduce as faithfully as possible the broader context of intimidation that those who work in the media suffer the hard way and that, in top of hindering the freedom to inform, it denies the citizens to be informed.
In the first period of activity, the Observatory has mostly recorded threats from criminal groups and those that put at risk the lives and the work of journalists. Ossigeno today has expanded its action range and improved its capabilities: the Observatory reports all forms – from those seemingly innocuous to the most subtle, that disguise themselves as good advice, trifles and even claims of “rights” – all cases in which not only the powers that be, criminal groups, but also politicians, administrators and citizens generally try in some way to obstruct the work of journalists, reporters, photographers, videographers, columnists, bloggers, documentary reporters, but also “simple” citizens, preventing them from telling and expressing themselves freely
It is not always easy to recognize a real threat or intimidation, as distinct from an insult, which in turn can be difficult to discern from statements made during a heated argument; just as it is sometimes easy to tell if a criminal act against a journalist is due to his work or has to do with stories about his private life.
That is why the Observatory verifies and analyzes each individual case before recording it in its archives. It is a rigorous, attentive work, which sometimes requires some time to be completed. It cannot be improvised: handling sensitive data, telling delicate facts sometimes subject at the same time to the examination of the police and the judiciary, treating events often similar to each other, that require a precise classification. As such a special taxonomy of threats and intimidation was prepared.
The threat is an offense envisioned in our Criminal Code (art. 612). Beyond that, and before that, it is a serious violation of the rules of civil coexistence. It becomes even heavier when it is projected in a fashion that is typical of the mafia through private violence, the aggression to people or damage to goods and tools. Intimidation is, in some ways, a more subtle form of threat: it is an act aimed at weakening the journalist, through scaring and destabilization, to push towards self-censorship, to think twice before closing an article or report. Threats and intimidation may be accomplished primarily in the form of physical assaults, damage or warnings.
These are three of the five main categories identified by the Observatory to define the strategy put in place to target the information operators. Within the first two categories the criteria considered are physical attacks, the intrusion into the private life of the reporter and damage to goods and work tools. In the third category fall those cases where, in writing or orally, the journalist was ordered to cease a certain conduct in their work, to deal with something else, or if they are insulted, or suffer insinuations. However, complaints and lawsuits, too – which are also numerically substantial – represent a serious threat to freedom of expression, since these turn out to be relatively easy instruments for the interests of those who believe that news, facts and opinions deemed “inconvenient” should not be made public. In this category are also included those cases that see the intimidating and specious use of legal actions, actions that are naturally regulated and permitted by law.
The most recent category that has enriched our classification is obstacles to information. It is the most difficult to identify and apply with precision. It is represented by all those pressures and decisions, which although within the law, are in fact aimed at limiting the freedom of journalists. It goes beyond the use of the lawsuit or of the pretext of damage claim in a civil court: it is a kind of intimidation that is even subtler. Into this broad category fall, for example, demotion (the decision to remove a journalist in charge of following certain events, or managing programs or news services); non-renewal of an employment contract because of news deemed inconvenient and inappropriate by the publisher, the editor, or by people who are putting pressure on the concerned leaders concerned; also in this category lie cases where agreements are made to prevent one or more media workers to communicate to readers-viewers-users information that is in the public interest which they have, or may be, lawfully acquired (destruction or theft of equipment and documentation, communications disruption, denial of spaces, resources and due supports, etc.).
The five (5) major categories group together thirty-four (34) specific typologies. While the first allows to identify which general strategy has been put in place to intimidate or threaten, the detailed breakdown is critical for distinguishing between often similar cases and provide more accurate data to be read in depth in the phase of analysis and that represent the phenomenon with greater adherence to reality.
What should be monitored for obtaining useful information?
The main objectives of the Observatory to be achieved through the use of its method, are the following:
- – measure the extent of the phenomenon related to threats and intimidation and its progress;
- – describe it in all its possible variations;
- – publish the names of the victims and of who perpetrated the threat;
- – prove that intimidation does not stem solely from the mafia and organized crime in general;
- – ascertain the truthfulness of the individual episodes;
- – disclose only verified acts of intimidation;
- – indicate the specific details of each case (date, place, tested or blog, author of intimidation, mode);
- – classify intimidations by type;
- – disseminate in a timely fashion circumstantial news on episodes detected;
- – analyze the data to better understand and hypothesize intervention strategies;
- – publicly build the list of victims;
- – involve victims in the monitoring phase;
- – interact with similar associations;
- – discuss the data in public meetings;
- – discuss results with journalists, politicians, institutions and associations;
- – create an open access thematic archive;
- – obtain the consent of the journalistic world for an investigation within it;
- – operate with independence and financial autonomy;
- – carry out main activities through volunteering.
The names of threatened persons are placed in the “Table of the names of victims” (http://notiziario.ossigeno.info/tutti-i-numeri-delleminacce/), which is interactive and freely accessible online. It lists all the victims in chronological order. Clicking a name leads to the article that explains the relative case.
The Table provides an essential synthetic representation of each individual case. These data answer to the five key questions of journalism: who, where, when, how and why. Each row of the table contains, besides the name of the threatened journalist (sometimes more than one, even entire newsrooms), the place and date of the intimidation, the media organization, the type of threat, and the presence of previous threats.
The data collected are added to the “Counter of victims of intimidation,” which in the homepage of Ossigeno per L’Informazione (http://notiziario.ossigeno.info) indicates the number of threatened journalists in the current year and from 2006 to today. Also, they feed into the “Map of Italian Regions”, which is also interactive, and which graphically represents the national distribution of threats in the current year.
Following are illustrated one by one the 34 specific categories of threat. For each a case by way of example is produced. In brackets the abbreviation used in the “Table of Names” published online.
Aggression (initials Agg or Ahh)
A violent action against a journalist in reaction to his work. It often occurs while the journalist is doing his job or as a “punishment” or reaction to investigations or articles that have already been published. There is a distinction between light aggression (a shove or a slap) and serious aggression (punching, kicking or otherwise) that forces the journalist to seek medical attention.
▪ Gabriel Picardo, 10th October 2012. Assaulted in a park while he was filming and forced to delete the video.
▪ Unione Sarda Photographer, 28 July 2013. Approached and assaulted by two men who destroyed the photographic equipment.
▪ Ivo Iannozzi, 20th june 2013. In the hospital with a 10 day prognosis. A man punched him repeatedly because he resented an article from the years prior.
Gun shots (Sp)
Gun shots against the house, the office, or the car of the reporter in his presence or as a warning.
▪ Daniela Braccani, 31st December 2012. Gunshots in the journalist’s house while the family was celebrating New Year’s Eve dinner.
▪ Newsroom “I Cordai”, 31st December 2012. On the last night of the year, the intimidations culminated with three shots fired inside the headquarters of the association.
▪ Francesca Santolini, 29th January 2013. Gunshots were fired at her car.
House Burglary (IC)
When someone illegally enters the journalist’s home or office and goes away without taking anything or merely removing items of no value.
▪ Rosaria Capacchione, 27th April 2010. Unidentified persons entered the house without taking anything of value (occurred first in 2009).
Explosion or explosives (ES)
Intimidations with the use of explosives. This category includes the discovery of explosives, unexploded paper bombs, time bombs and explosions at the homes or workspaces of journalists.
▪ Massimo Numa, 2nd October 2013. Bomb sent to the newsroom of the journalist, who had been covering issues from the Val di Susa and TAV. In April, another explosive was sent to the newsroom.
▪ Nino Panella, 25th August 2012. Molotov cocktails hurled at journalist’s house.
▪ Rosaria Malcangi, 10th November 2011. A paper bomb exploded outside the journalist’s home.
Car or house burning (Inc)
The burning of the car or the house of a journalist or a member of his family is a serious act of arson made with the aim of intimidating the reporter and pushing him not to continue in his reporting or investigative activities.
▪ Ilario Filippone, 4th April 2012. The car of journalist torched
▪ Lucio Gambera, 21st June 2013. Car parked near the house of journalist torched.
▪ Luigi Centore, 10th July 2013. Car of a journalist torched.
The unlawful appropriation of documents, computer files, audio or video support, tools and other useful items for the journalist and his work.
▪ Riccardo Orioles, 15th August 2012. Someone broke into the house and looked at the journalist’s personal papers and other material, and then left them in the house.
▪ Alessandro Iacuelli, 14th March 2013. Hard disk drives, videocassettes, computer, memory card and USB with documents worth four years of work stored in the apartment, have been stolen from the journalist’s home.
▪ Alberto Nerazzini, 14th July 2013. Taken from journalist’s home two cameras, five computers, microphones, and video material.
Damage to property and personal belongings or work (Dan)
The destruction or damage of personal property and tools of the reporter in order to frighten him or prevent him from continuing his work or limit his operational ability.
▪ TeleJato collaborators, 29th March 2011. Damage to car, theft of computer and mobile phones in the homes of some collaborators of TeleJato.
▪ Peter Longo, 22nd March 2012. Assaulted while filming the scene of an altercation between motorists and Gesip protesters who had blocked traffic.
Matteo Lauria, 10th September 2013. Journalist’s car damaged.
Spoken warning in the presence of third persons (Mr)
Includes veiled threats and allusions to possible negative consequences of news work. Includes direct warning to an entire newsroom or to a specific newspaper in its entirety. Threats addressed generically to reporters or the category, are not counted.
▪ Adriano Pagano, 9th March 2012. During press conference, mayor of Formia publicly stated: “To do the job of a journalist is dangerous”.
▪ Rosario Cauchi, 28th July 2011. He found a warning in his garage telling him to stop doing his job.
▪ Rosaria Capacchione, 14th April 2011. Accused by boss’s lawyer of influencing judge’s decision with her articles.
Threat letter or other intimidations in writing (LM)
Anonymous letter containing explicit threats against the journalist for the work done or for on-going investigations. It is often written on the computer or composed with newspaper scraps, with phrases like: “you are a dead man walking”, “we’ll cut your hands off”, etc. In some cases the threats refers to the habits of the reporter or his family and reveals observation and shadowing.
▪ Antonio Loconte, 17th September 2013. Receives letter with death threats in his home. He reported on the emergency 118 service in Bari and in other provinces of the Apulia region. (ENG)
▪ Michele Inserra, 27th July 2012. Received an anonymous threat letter in the newsroom.
▪ Enrico Bellavia, 29th June 2012. Threat letter against journalist delivered to the office.(ENG)
Letter with active bullets (Pro)
To attach active bullets enhances the intimidating effect of a threat letter. It signals the ability of the author of the threat (often a criminal) to hit the journalist with firearms.
▪ Giovanni Taranto, 12th March 2013. Intimidating message with 2 bullets sent to the newsroom.
▪ Ersilio Mattioni, 20th December 2012. Envelope with a bullet delivered to the newsroom.
▪ Giuseppe Bianco, 14th July 2011. Intimidation due perhaps to articles on municipal police competition.
Letter with empty cartridge (BE)
Also in this case the evocative force of bullets served to strengthen the intimidating power of the missive.
▪ Katia Giannotta, 28th January 2012. She was threatened and reported the facts to the police, but an investigation is unlikely due to lack of evidence.
Discrimination and arbitrary exclusion (All)
These cases concern those journalists arbitrarily expelled or excluded from press conferences, public meetings, and those journalists who are denied the needed accreditation to follow an event (sports, politics, etc.) without plausible reason, often challenged by hypothetical bureaucratic obstacles. The arbitrary exclusion is often decided as a gesture of disapproval for the job of the journalist, who is thus prevented in this way from doing his job, in violation of his rights.
▪ Roberto Ventre, 21st July 2011. The Naples Football Club denies him press accreditation for an article disliked by the club’s president.
▪ Giulio Mancini, 1st September 2012. Forbidden entry into the council of the XIII sub-municipality of Rome
▪ Cortocircuito newsroom, 30th July 2013. Threatened and moved away from the scene of a fire by the owner of the field and some workers.
These are the cases in which the journalist is literally persecuted by someone. Episodes of threat in this case are on-going in various forms: stalking, threatening phone calls, letters.
▪ Letizia Tassinari, 23rd August 2012. Victim of constant harassment since August, 20th after news of a strange incident in her building. She found her car damaged.
▪ Danila De Lucia. Since October 2009 she has received a series of phone calls, threatening letters, insults by an anonymous “unsatisfied reader”.
Death threats (MM)
These are cases of serious threats that intimate the journalist to stop researching and writing the facts, and to stop investigating or risk being killed.
▪ Gianfranco Criscenti, Giuseppe Pipitone, Giuseppe Lo Bianco, 8th July 2011. Threatened in an anonymous letter for having written about Bishop Miccichè and the on-going investigations on the diocese of Trapani.
▪ Gennaro Manzo, 12th May 2012. Provoked and threatened with death by member of a local association
▪ Giovanni Tizian, 1st December 2011. Lives under police protection after in a wiretapped phone call, the mafia talk about killing the “pain-in-the-neck” journalist.
Personal threats (MP)
These are the cases in which the journalist is approached and threatened and informed that as a result of his work and of his inquiries he may suffer direct damage to his person or to people close to him or to his property.
▪ Salvo Cutuli, Rosario Nicolosi, 29th February 2012. Approached and threatened by supporters of a priest accused of paedophilia
▪ Carlo Ceraso, 12th May 2012. A man approached him, provoked him, insulted him and threatened him.
▪ Michele Oggiano, 21st November 2013. Threatened by a stranger while trying to set off a fire in an industrial area
Threatening phone calls (TM)
These are the cases in which the reporter is contacted by telephone, usually by someone anonymous who tells him to stop working or else suffer severe retaliation.
▪ Sciarelli, 16th May 2012. Threatening calls on live TV.
▪ Alessandra Vaccari, 1st February 2012. Threatened because of an article on a kidnapping in a store
▪ Giornale di Sicilia Newsroom, 13th September 13, 2013. Mute phone calls received, and a cross with plastic rods was found
Hacker Attack (Hac)
These are the cases where there is intervention on the websites of newspapers, magazines and blogs to block the disclosure of unwelcome news.
▪ Articolo21 newsroom, 13th December 2012. On the eve of the Forum of Assisi, the website Articolo21 was hacked. It is the fourth time this has happened before a public event organized by the association.
Threats on Facebook and other social networks (FB)
These are the case including the threatening expressions and insults published with real or fake profiles, or the creation of groups specifically created to conduct a hostile campaign against an operator of information in sign of retaliation for his work.
▪ Claudio Pappaianni, Andrea Postiglione, 1st October 2011. Insulted on Facebook and subjected to “warnings” in the district of Barra.
▪ Marco Pasqua, 26th August 2011. Threatened for having reported on the racist and homophobic program of the nationalist party Gaetano Saya.
▪ Gigi Capasso, 7th November 2013. Attacked on Facebook for an article on the incarceration of the President of the Savoia Football club.
These are cases in which the journalist is insulted in public or insulted or denigrated by people with power or the ability to influence.
▪ Paolo Moretti, Stefano Ferrari, Mauro Peverelli, Anna Campaniello, 2nd June 2012. Were called “cannibals” and “shit-eaters” for having reported on events related to the investigation of a priest accused of paedophilia
▪ Lucio Musolino, Giuseppe Baldessarro, Guido Ruotolo, 10th October 2012. Attacked by the governor Scopelliti as part of a small circle of journalists who have no interest in the greater good of Calabria
▪ Francesca De Simone, 20th October 2013. Insulted and offended by the president of the Lazio and co-owner of Salerno football clubs Claudio Lotito.
Banners and cardboard signs (Ex)
These are cases in which threats are made with insulting banners displayed on the street, in a stadium, or during a demonstration. These include graffiti and wall writings offensive to the journalist.
▪ Daniele Genco, 3rd December 2011. Written threat in Aosta underpass.
▪ Stefania Petyx, 13th May 2012. First warned by stranger, then the troupe’s car is damaged, and eventually a written threat outside her home
▪ Virman Cusenza, Petronilla Carillo, 9th October 2013. Hanging on the walls, posters with slogans against the former editor of the newspaper and the judicial reporter. Journalists accused of writing lies about the former president of the Province of Salerno
These are cases in which the journalist is followed, stalked, filmed during his daily activity so as to intimidate him and study his habits and his family.
▪ Lirio Abbate, 12th November 2013. Stalked by a man suspected of being linked to organized crime in Rome, after the publication of an investigation in December 2012.
▪ Massimo Numa, 7th January 2014. He received an email containing a video showing his movements and those of his wife in the last two years: a sign that the journalist and his family were followed and stalked
CLAIMS AND LEGAL ACTIONS
Lawsuit for defamation considered spurious (QD)
These are cases where a lawsuit has been either filed or announced, without the complainant first requesting a correction, retraction or clarification of the information deemed wrong or harmful to the reputation, as prescribed by law.
▪ Journalists from Il Giornale and Libero 13th-14th March 2011. 36 and 18 reporters from the respective newspapers have been cited by Italo Bocchino.
▪ Giacomo Di Girolamo, 14th December 2012. The City Council authorised the mayor to sue him for libel, claiming that too much criticism has been expressed by Marsala.it.
▪ Milena Gabanelli, Giuliano Marrucci, 17th November 2013. The former minister Brunetta announced a lawsuit for a report which hasn’t yet aired, and of which he has seen only the demo.
Complaint by Magistrate considered spurious (QM)
These cases are similar to the previous ones. However these are nonetheless noted separately in consideration of the role that a magistrate holds in society and in the administration of justice.
▪ Fabio Amendolara, Paride Leporace, 31st January 2008. The then Attorney General of Potenza Vincenzo Tufano, feeling harmed by an article, had asked for compensation of €130,000.
▪ Michele Inserra, 2013. Magistrate filed 13 libel suits in a year
▪ Francesco Forgione, 2012. Asked for €20 million in libel damages libel for a book inquiry into the ‘Ndrangheta.
Summons for damages considered specious (RRD)
These are the cases in which a citizen, politician, or entrepreneur, without having asked for a correction, clarification or retraction from the news outlet, appeals to a civil court declaring himself vilified and seeks damages (often sums that are out of proportion) putting pressure on the individual journalist and publishing company that, until the case ends, must add the amount of potential liability to its budget.
▪ Leonida Ambrosio, 2011. The mayor of the municipality whose council was dissolved because of infiltration by the Camorra requested €200,000. The trial carried forward also by the prefectural commissioners
▪ Francesco Viviano, Alessandra Zinniti, Sebastiano Messina, 6th January 2012. The President of the Region of Sicily Raffaele Lombardo asked for €6.5 million from the three journalists
Vincenzo Cimino, 3rd November 2013. Crisafulli (Democratic Party) has asked for €2 million in compensation for an article on his career and judicial affairs.
Indictment for refusing to reveal a news source (FON)
This option granted to the prosecutor contradicts the right recognized to the reporter, by the same law, to maintain the secrecy of his confidential sources. It mainly affects the licensed contributors of news.
In Italy, those who who carry out journalistic duties on a paid, ongoing basis are required to enrol in the Order of Journalists, which has two different Registers, one for “professionisti”, or professional journalists, and one for “publicisti” who are entirely excluded from the right to professional secrecy.
▪ Enna: Acquittal for journalist who refused to reveal source
▪ Potenza. Claps murder. Fabio Amendolara accused of breaching state secret.
▪ Professional secrecy. Piazza Fontana, Mister X and Cucchiarelli’s “secret”.
Abuses of the law (AbD)
These are the cases where a journalist is indicted or convicted in relation to the performance of his work, undergoes invasive investigations, is wiretapped by authorities, has equipment taken and archives search, and is put under pressure so that the confidential source is revealed.
▪ Giuliano Foschini, 16th November 2012. Police searched Bari newsroom and home of journalist under investigation by prosecutors of Lecce for having received and published stolen documents from the courthouse of Bari.
▪ Orfeo Donatini, Tiziano Marson, 1st July 2012. Sentenced to four months’ imprisonment and a fine for libel.
▪ Giovanni Pons, Vittoria Puledda, 8th November 2013. At Consob’s request, the prosecutor’s office of Milan makes available phone call records of the two reporters.
▪ Lo Verso Case. Cancellation of order to seize computer and mobile phones.
Indictment for arbitrary publication of judicial papers (PAB)
These are the cases where a journalist is charged with having published legal documents that have come into his hands, even though these are already formally known to the interested parties but not to the public.
▪ Alfio Sciacca, Ferruccio De Bortoli, 15th December 2011. Deferred judgment for the offense of arbitrary publication of criminal proceedings.
Judicial seizure of documents, archives and tools (Seq)
A judicial seizure of tools and documents issued to discover the source of a news article or become aware of data collected by the journalist that may have relevance for the prosecution of a crime.
▪ Attilio Bolzoni, Lirio Abbate, 30th September 2011. Seizure of several documents, including the minutes of meetings with Toto Riina, and charge of violation of investigative secrecy
Notice of investigation for crimes related to the publishing of news (AG)
These are cases in which a reporter received a notice of investigation related to offenses allegedly committed by the publication of news, surveys and reports.
▪ Antonio Condorelli, 2011. Notice of investigation for having published the report of a doctor who refused to sign a diagnosis of “aortic aneurysm” for the governor of Sicily Lombardo.
▪ Charles Ceraso, Massimo Sbardella, 20th December 2013. Notice of investigation for articles written on inquiry that has engulfed the former board and the management of Banca Popolare di Spoleto, also order to black out 3 articles on the website.
Invasive search (For)
These are cases in which the homes of journalists or editors are raided, often following the seizure of work materials aimed at discovering the source of a news story.
▪ Newsroom of La Nazione, 1st November 2011. Search of newsroom following the charge of violation of investigation secrets.
▪ Fabio Amendolara, 23rd January 2012. Interrogation and search of the newsroom and house for the prosecution of the revelation of office secrets.
▪ Giuseppe Lo Bianco, Sandra Rizza, Riccardo Lo Verso, 12th October 2013. Police search homes of journalists, analysing personal computers, smartphones, storage drives, tablets and diaries in the search for documents.
Blog blacked out (total or partial) (BLG)
The blacking out of a news site or a blog or deletion of specific news at the request of a judicial authority due to the publication of proceedings covered by secrecy, or following complaints of citizens, politicians, and businessmen.
Antonio Brindisi, 27th February 2012. Blackout of blog following a complaint for defamation
These are the cases in which a journalist is presented with a report of alleged violations enacted during the course of their work.