There are inattentions, legislative gaps and broken promises behind the story told by Vecellio and the cases of journalists who pay damages instead of publishers
The story told by journalist Valter Vecellio about the incredible sting (read here) that he suffered with the injunction of the Inland Revenue Agency to pay the court costs that should have been borne by the Nazi criminal Erich Priebke, is truly sad and demeaning. Priebke had sued him, had lost the case but had proved to be penniless. This story brings us back to that image of an unjust, upside down justice that Carlo Collodi so wonderfully outlined in the Adventures of Pinocchio who ends up in trouble for complaining to having been robbed. Unfortunately, topsy-turvy justice still appears in 21st century Italy, and not infrequently, even to the detriment of respectable journalists.
Valter Vecellio is right. This story adds a new chapter to the “book” on reckless, and I would also say pretentious and unjust, lawsuits,. Ossigeno per l’Informazione has been writing for years, this white paper, with Voltairian candour, publicising the cases of thousands of journalists who are subjected to intimidation, threats and various harassments also on the legal level. The news has a way to always add new pages, day after day.
This mockery of Priebke, although different and in some ways more worrying, recalls in particular that which many other Italian journalists have been suffering for some time, those former employees of L’Unita and other newspapers that have ceased publication and whose publishers have declared bankruptcy . These bankrupt publishers are ethereal entities, unreachable even by the justice system. So much so that journalists, their former employees who were orphaned with pending trials, have themselves to pay for the legal costs that the publisher was committed to supporting but also, in case of conviction, that part of the damages that would have been due to the publisher.
It is an injustice that cries out for revenge and is even more shameful than the imposition of the payment of the court costs of the penniless Nazi’s reckless lawsuit.
A further mockery is that of unfulfilled political commitments, of the promises to remedy this blatant injustice that, until it is rectified will constitute a sword of Damocles hanging over the head of every Italian journalist. In its time – and it has been over five years – many political leaders publicly recognized that the current law is unfair and must be changed on this point. Yet nobody changes it. In the meantime Ossigeno is helping some of them through the Free Legal Aid Office (
https://www.ossigeno.info/in-2019-oxygen-doubles-legal-aid-for-journalists/?lang=en ) which was born precisely to strengthen, as is necessary, the solidarity network among the respectable journalists who suffer these pranks, these humiliations and not insignificant damages.