Italy. A story of criminal libel. Ossigeno helps the reporter charged

Francesco Pesante tells his judiciary calvary in this text written for Ossigeno Legal Desk 

The Ossigeno Legal Desk (see here), which operates in collaboration with Media Defence, awarded the journalist Francesco Pesante a monetary contribution to help with the legal costs of a proceeding in which he is accused of criminal libel (read here).

Francesco Pesante tells his story in this text written for Ossigeno

OSSIGENO 9th  November 2023 – I am the journalist Francesco Pesante and I am the chief editor of the web newspaper “l’Immediato” based in Foggia (Apulia). I sincerely thank  the “Ossigeno per l’Informazione” Legal Desk which accepted my request for financial assistance to support the substantial expenses necessary to exercise my right of defence in a trial to defend myself from an accusation of libel which I consider absolutely unfounded.

For years I have been involved in journalistic investigations into the mafia in Puglia, an area   tormented by criminal clans with six municipalities dissolved due to infiltration by organised crime in the last eight years: in 2015 Monte Sant’Angelo, in 2018 Mattinata, in 2019 Manfredonia and Cerignola, in 2021 Foggia and in 2023 Orta Nova.

Because of my  investigations, I have long been subjected to spurious, unfounded and reckless complaints, presented with the aim of gagging me and the publication I edit.

Lawsuits entail costs even for those who are innocent, before and even after a judge recognizes that. These expenses create difficulties for small newspapers like the one of which I am the chief editor.

The lawsuits  arrive despite the fact that my articles are well documented and the sentences that are contested against me are based exclusively on clear facts and judicial documents that I read with the help of my sources.

Over the years I have managed to recover various precautionary orders, numerous sentences and so on. I was also able to read the reports of the commissions of inquiry on the basis of which the government decreed the dissolution of the municipal councils of the province of Foggia due to mafia infiltration.

Although my statements are supported by facts, papers and judicial documents and my articles are treated by me as required by the ethics of journalism, I have repeatedly found myself forced to demonstrate my correctness in court.

It almost seems that the State (in this case represented by the Court) wants to put itself on trial, initiating expensive and tiring trials focused on circumstances and reconstructions of investigating magistrates and anti-mafia magistrates in the documents I cited in the articles.

The case for which I obtained from “Ossigeno” a reassuring attestation of solidarity and a monetary contribution towards legal expenses concerns the criminal proceedings (n. 4280/22 RGNR) in which I now have to answer for the offence of libel crime before the Court of Foggia.

The accusation against me originates from an article resulting from the publication of a photograph that I took from social media, where it had been inserted by a municipal councillor of the ruling majority in the Municipality of Manfredonia. In the image she appears sitting at a table together with other local administrators and a man known to investigators for having been arrested in 2020 in a maxi police operation against drug trafficking and currently on trial. I republished  that image, highlighting a mere question of opportunity: is it appropriate that in a municipality dissolved by the mafia, some members of the ruling majority take part in a meeting with a person under investigation?

For the publication of this photo I was sentenced by criminal decree, that is, without trial, without even having had the opportunity to explain my reasons. I opposed this decree and therefore there will be a trial during which I will assert the right of us journalists to criticise and report, in a province in which the press, unfortunately, is often trampled upon, as Ossigeno per l’Informazione has shown several times, and which deserves to be better defended. ASP



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