The prosecutor of Rovigo has requested the original footage of the investigation into the scandal involving refuse in Veneto region. The chief editor did not hand them over so as not to reveal the identity of the trusted sources
On June 17th 2019 the journalist Francesco Piccinini, chief editor of the online newsletter Fanpage, refused to hand over to the Carabinieri’s Operating Unit dealing with ecological issues the original video recordings of interviews carried out by his reporters for the investigation published in recent weeks, which revealed a serious case of illicit disposal of polluting waste made around Este near Padua by Susa, a composting company. A case which is being investigated by the Prosecutor of Rovigo.
The interviews with the informants had been published by Fanpage in a way to conceal their identity. The Carabinieri turned up in Naples, in Fanpage’s editorial offices , with a writ from the Public Prosecutor of Rovigo. The investigators wanted to know the confidential sources that had formed the basis the investigation for its authors: Sacha Biazzo and the other reporters of the Backstair team.
Piccinini resisted citing the professional secrecy of journalists, which requires them not to reveal the identity of the confidential sources. Soon after, he convened a press conference in the Fanpage editorial office and described the incident.
In the previous days Fanpage had announced that the head of external relations of the company Sesa di Este, Francesco Ghidin and another member of the company had offered the chief editor and the reporters of Fanpage an advertising investment of 300,000 euros over three years on condition of being able to “view”, before publication, the video investigation into waste disposal in Veneto. Those making the offer say in a video recorded by Fanpage and published together with the news that the offer had been refused, “The important thing is that you don’t break our balls too much, you understand? Because unfortunately if you repeatedly target us, the others ask me: why do we have to pay those who target us?”.
THE CHIEF EDITOR PICCININI – Francesco Piccinini told Ossigeno: “As happened in the past, as part of the “Bloody Money” investigation, I find myself again today reaffirming loudly how investigative journalism is the sustenance of a real democratic country. Precisely for this reason, in recent years, investigations have covered an increasingly preponderant part of my work and that of Fanpage.it, so much so that the “Backstair” team was set up, a team of video reporters and journalists dedicated to the work of investigation. Investigations such as “Bloody Money” and “The Offer” unmask a sick system present in multiple levels of our society on which we can intervene only by denouncing it and showing it for what it is. In the realization of our work the sources are obviously fundamental and for this very reason Fanpage.it opposed the request of the police’s ecological unit of Venice to reveal their names when acquiring the material related to the investigation into Sesa. In this regard I would like to thank the Italian National Press Federation (Fnsi), the Union of journalists of Campania, the Union of Campania reporters and all those who defended and supported our work publicly, but also by writing to us during the written evidence stage”.
The INVESTIGATION into waste-disposal in the Veneto region has had great political reverberations. It involved Fanpage reporters for almost a year. The Sesa company – the investigation explains, inter alia, – is one of the largest composting plants in Europe. It has a turnover of 90 million euros. Revenues exceed 8 million. Every year it produces 68,000 metric tons of compost that is spread on the fields as fertilizer. Fanpage maintained that the Este company spread compost containing plastic and heavy metals, on some agricultural land around Este in the lower Padua area.
THE REPERCUSSIONS of the investigation were amplified by its publication while the Italian Parliament discussed an amendment to transfer some responsibilities for compost treatment from the regions to the Ministry of the Environment.
A further repercussion came from the fact that the journalist Francesco Ghidin, the employee of Sesa who was in charge of relations with Fanpage and took part in the advertising offer, was at that time also a consultant for communications of the Undersecretary for the Environment … Vania , of the League political party although after the publication of the Fanpage survey, Ghidin left this last position. In the meantime he is subject to a disciplinary investigation by the Order of Journalists of the Veneto Region.
Fanpage and its journalists have received extensive declarations of solidarity.
“Those who make courageous investigations must be protected, cannot be harassed,” commented the president of the Italian National Press Federation (Fnsi), Giuseppe Giulietti, who visited the editorial offices the day after the visit of the Carabinieri.
The offer of a substantial advertising contribution made to Fanpage by the representative of the Sesa company was regarded as an obvious attempt to buy the silence of the magazine and was condemned as such by several parties, among others by the president of the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission, Nicola Morra (of the Five Star Party M5S), by the undersecretary Vito Crimi (M5S) and by Nicola Fratoianni of the Italian Left.
On June 17th 2019 the journalist Francesco Piccinini, chief editor of the online newsletter Fanpage, refused to reveal to the police his sources, those of reporter Sacha Biazzo and the other members of the Backstair team who had exposed a serious case of illegal waste disposal around Este near Padua by Susa, a composting company. Piccinini also refused to hand over to the Carabinieri of the Ecological Operating Unit of Venice, who had gone to the Naples office with this request, the original video recordings of the interviews carried out by the reporters and published in such a way as to conceal their identities.
In the preceding days Fanpage had reported that the manager of the external relations of the company Sesa of Este, Francesco Ghidin, had offered the chief editor and the reporters of Fanpage finance of 300,000 euros, later reduced to 100,000 on condition of being able to see the video survey on waste disposal in Veneto before its publication. This proposal was rejected by the newspaper and has been documented with a video published online.
For both the events Fanpage and its journalists received ample expressions of solidarity.
“Whoever makes courageous investigations must be protected and cannot be harassed”, commented the president of the FNSI, Giuseppe Giulietti who also took part in the press conference called by Fanpage in its editorial office, immediately after the visit of the Carabinieri.