ECHR: Renzo Magosso’s 2004 Sentence rejected
He was convicted of libel along with Brindani for writing that the police knew about the Red Brigade’s plans against Walter Tobagi
Journalists Renzo Magosso and Umberto Brindani should not have been convicted of libel because of the article, published in the weekly Gente in June 2004 on the murder of Walter Tobagi, in which they claimed that the police had long known that the journalist was in the terrorists’ sights. This was established on the 16th January 2020 by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in a judgement in which Italy was found guilty for violating the two men’s right to freedom of expression.
The Strasbourg court determined that Italy must pay each of the two journalists the 15 thousand euro they have asked for as compensation.
In condemning Italy, the Court in Strasbourg points the finger at the assessment made by the Italian courts that condemned Magosso and Bridani for libelling the late general of the Carabinieri Umberto Bonaventura and the retired general Alessandro Ruffino. The judgement contains numerous criticisms of how the case was judged and the Court comes to the conclusion that “the sentencing of the two journalists was a disproportionate interference in their right to freedom of expression and therefore unnecessary in a democratic society”.
Among the criticisms raised was that of not having attached importance to the fact that the article in question was based on statements made by third parties that the journalist was reporting. “Sanctioning a journalist for his help in publishing statements made by a third person during an interview would seriously hamper the contribution of the press to discussions on problems of public interest” and the sanction can only be allowed if there are “particularly serious reasons “.
The Court in Strasbourg reiterates that when a journalist reports other people’s statements, the courts should not ask themselves whether the author of the article can prove the truthfulness of the statements but whether he acted in good faith and did the necessary verification checks. In this regard, the Court observed that Magosso and Brindani “have provided a substantial number of documents and other material that prove that they have carried out the verifications enabling the version of the facts reported in the article to be regarded as credible and founded on a solid factual basis. “.
The ECHR also criticizes the size of the compensation (about 150 thousand euros) that the two journalists were sentenced to pay, stating that the fact that the damages were paid by the publishing house of the weekly Gente does not change anything because there is no denying ” the deterrent effect of these sanctions on the rôle of the journalist in contributing to public discussion on issues that affect the wider community “. (ANSA)
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