The Court of Milan imposed four months in prison. The sentence will remain suspended if the blogger compensates the two journalists of the Gazzeta dello Sport.
Two journalists of the Gazzetta dello Sport, Sebastiano Vernazza and Mirko Graziano sued a blogger who in 2016 published an article containing offensive remarks and insults against them. After two years, on February 11th , 2020, the Milan Court sentenced the blogger to four months in prison for defamation. The sentence will remain suspended if, by June 30th 2020, he compensates the two reporters with five thousand euro each.
At the end of the preliminary investigations, the prosecuting magistrate had asked for the dismissal but the journalists had opposed it. The public prosecutor then asked for a 1,800 euro fine. The Gazzetta case was supported by lawyer Antonio De Rensis of the Bologna Bar.
THE FACTS In 2016, in several articles, Vernazza and Graziano criticized the Inter football team in relation to a match against an Israeli team which ended in defeat for the Italian team. Those articles aroused negative reactions from Inter fans. A blogger published a particularly resentful post, insulting the two journalists and accusing the two journalists and their newspaper of being unprofessional. To accompany the text, the newspaper’s logo was depicted on a roll of toilet paper.
THE JOURNALISTS ‘COMMENT – “Words are stones and, especially in football, they weigh a lot. Sebastiano Vernazza told Ossigeno. – We decided to sue the author of that defamatory article not to target him directly but because we wanted to get this message across: you can criticize us but you cannot insult us. It is not acceptable that everything is allowed, especially on social networks, where they are now jumping on you in a pack. Articles like the one we have challenged are the fuse for those people who, in spite of every rule, feel entitled to offend and insult you on social media where, inter alia, , in 90% of cases, those who criticize hide behind fake and anonymous accounts, while we sign our articles with our name and surname “.
THE COMMENT FROM THE ATTORNEY DI PIETRO – The lawyer Andrea Di Pietro, coordinator of the Legal Aid Office of Ossigeno (see here) commented on the story as follows.
It would be a distortion to frame this story in the context of freedom of expression. As the journalists of the Gazzetta dello Sport rightly pointed out, the right to freely express their thoughts by writing, by speech or by any other form of communication can never descend into gratuitous insults or violent language. It is true, especially in football, a context in which the offensive nature of expressions is tolerated more than in other more serious and formal areas. But the football arena cannot and must not become an area of linguistic impunity, because even in sport, as in any other sphere, there are people working whose dignity must find full legal protection. In this sense, the prison sentence applied to the defendants seems to me suitable for sanctioning actual forms of language that incite hatred and violence.