On appeal, 13 years after the lawsuit for a 2006 article in L’Unita. The reporter: a nightmare has ended, thanks to Ossigeno’s legal aid office
Thirteen years after the complaint of an MEP and six years after the first instance judgment, on October 29th 2019, the Rome Appeal Court confirmed the acquittal of the journalist, Enrico Fierro. The reporter was accused of defamation for a 2006 article published in the newspaper L’Unita that ceased publication in 2017. Sent for trial, Enrico Fierro was acquitted at the first instance in 2013. In this Appeal trial he was defended in court by the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro, on behalf of the Free Legal Aid Office of Ossigeno.
THE COMMENT OF ENRICO FIERRO – “When the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro called me to announce that I had been acquitted, he did it with the tone of someone who was about to tell you that a nightmare is over. The nightmare of a lawsuit that can ruin the rest of your life” Enrico Fierro told Ossigeno. The journalist recalled that Ossigeno had intervened in his support “replacing the runaway publisher” after the closure of L’Unita. (read here the story)
“Oxygen in my case and in that of other colleagues in the same condition as me, broke the isolation and replaced a terrible loneliness,” he added, expressing satisfaction with the result achieved. “It took thirteen years for the right to truth and the free exercise of my profession as a journalist to be recognized. A very long period, a tense and twisted judicial history. Not being a bankrupt, a Mafia member, a narco-trafficker or a bribed politician, I alone, as a journalist with no publisher anymore, could not have faced the trial. I would not have had the money to pay the legal fees; I would not have had the psychological strength to fight a rich individual with a pack of lawyers and with very high level political and institutional connections. I would have lost, I would have been defeated and buried by a request for compensation that I could never have faced – Fierro observed – It remains an entirely political fact: whoever sues you does so at zero risk, can tolerate a trial of infinite duration and lose it without having to justify it either to the judges or to the plaintiff. This is how things are; the lawsuit is still a powerful weapon of intimidation against journalists, especially the weakest and least guaranteed, and a limitation upon press freedom”.
THE COMMENT OF OXYGEN – With the work of its Office of Legal Aid that provides free assistance, Ossigeno reinforces its commitment in favour of reporters in difficulty in the face of accusations that appear specious and unfounded and in particular of those media workers sued for libel that do not have the financial support of the publisher who published the article for which they were sued, because they never had it or because they lost it. Thus, for example, in the paradoxical situations such as those of Enrico Fierro, and journalists Concita De Gregorio and Sandra Amurri, also former employees of the newspaper “l’Unità”, they were defended by the Office of free Legal Aid of Ossigeno. When they published the articles for which they were sued, these journalists, like Enrico Fierro, enjoyed the publisher’s legal protection. Then, while the case went ahead and was not yet concluded, that protection has vanished. They lost completely the indemnity, that is, the right to be protected from the economic consequences of convictions for libel and also from the legal defence expenses. These circumstances have led to the emergence of a legislative vacuum that still needs to be filled, to ensure that in no case can a publisher escape the commitments made to journalists who have worked for him.