Italy. Defamation. Ossigeno’s legal defence to a journalist sued by a former councillor

Questo articolo è disponibile anche in: Italian

The chief editor  of the periodical “Il Segno” challenged  his conviction by criminal decree – He will go to trial in January 2025 to assert his reasons

OSSIGENO 12th June 2024 – The Legal Desk of Ossigeno per l’Informazione (read here) , that works in cooperation with Media Defence, has decided to support the legal costs of the journalist Andrea Sebastianelli, accused in a criminal trial for libel arising from the complaint of a former councillor of the Municipality of Rocca di Papa (province of Rome), who considers himself damaged by a news article on the administrative events of the area.

The journalist’s defence was entrusted to the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro, coordinator of the Ossigeno Legal Desk. The trial will take place before the Criminal Court of Velletri. The judgement should be pronounced, with immediate effect, on  the 20th  January 2025. The trial is proceeding  because the journalist opposed the criminal decree with which he was convicted on the 27th December 2023 without having the opportunity to defend himself and assert his reasons.

Andrea Sebastianelli is the chief editor  of the publication  Il Segno, a newspaper  that recounts events in  the Castelli Romani area and Rocca di Papa in particular.

This affair , like many others covered by Ossigeno, displays  the characteristic features of specious complaints resorted to even by local officials and administrators reacting to journalistic reports that they do not like. These legal proceedings are often resorted to in the absence of sufficient elements to support the accusation of defamation in order to warn  the sued reporter that he must be more careful about what he writes.

The trial of Andrea Sebastianelli arose from an article dated 29th April 2023 in which this journalist reconstructed the phases of the political crisis which, at the end of November 2022, brought down the mayor Veronica Cimino and the municipal council of Rocca di Papa which she led. The article, inter alia, cites the mayor’s never-denied statements, published at the time of the crisis by various press outlets. Among these, the newspaper Il Messaggero, in an article entitled: “Stopped because I fight corruption”.

Among other things, in this article the mayor Veronica Cimino states: “I did my duty, I always said that it was essential to fight, and I reported some things to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. In fact, those who sue are putting themselves in an uncomfortable situation. I expected them to make me fall.” After these words from the Mayor, two councillors resigned, triggering a series of other dissociations that led to the crisis of the municipal council.

One of the two resigning councillors sued Andrea Sebastianelli for defamation because he had allegedly offended the reputation of the municipal councillor “by ascribing  the readers  with the belief that the resignation from the office of councillor caused the fall of the Cimino administration in order to protect illicit clientelistic interests”.

The straw that broke the camel’s back regarding the political balance within the municipal administration, according to Andrea Sebastianelli’s reconstruction, was an affair that revolved around the failure to collect the taxes due for the use of public land. The newspaper Il Segno had covered this issue since 2015, bringing to light shortcomings and scams to the detriment of the Municipality, stating that on the occasion of public events which included requests for use of public land to install stands, someone collected the tax by issuing bogus receipts and did not pay the sums collected into the municipal coffers. ASP

Read other news on other cases handled by the Ossigeno Legal Desk

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