Italy. Free support for 461 Italian journalists by Ossigeno MAP Project. January-April 2022

OSSIGENO – June 9th 2022 – This report shows the results of the MAP (Monitoring Assistance Protection) Project created by Ossigeno in partnership with the GMDF fund of UNESCO

Report of the MAP (Monitor Assist and Protect) – The Ossigeno Support for Journalists Under Attack

  1. In few words
  2. Restrictions on Press Freedom
  3. Support actions for reporters
  4. Gender discrimination
  5. Monitoring
  6. Documentation
  7. Communication
  8. Visibility of the Project
  9. Synergies

 

1 .THE FIRST THREE MONTHS AT A GLANCE

In the first three months of implementation (February, March, April 2022) the MAP Project achieved the objectives indicated in the work plan. In the first month, the Supervisor formed the project team, finalised the IT tools for data collection and analysis, and updated the methodology and evaluation criteria.

After two weeks, in advance of the project schedule, the project team became operational and the planned activities began.

 

The results obtained in the first quarter are good, both in terms of quality and quantity.

 

THE TEAM – Team members have demonstrated a good ability to work together to identify, evaluate  and document the undisputed phenomena of threats, intimidation and abuse which in Italy affect a large number of journalists who find stories and publish both them  and legitimate comments though not always pleasing to those in power.

The project team proved capable of identifying and selecting the relevant intimidations and threats, verifying and publicly documenting the most relevant ones that constitute, indubitably, violations of the right to information as defined by article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. (ECHR), and highlighting other incident classified as “probable” violations of the same right.

 

MAIN RESULTS – Observers detected 119 incidents of intimidation and documented 52 incidents detrimental to 170 media workers. They discarded a number of incidents (16 to be exact) because they judged the behaviour of the journalist subjected to intimidation to be inconsistent with the ethics of journalism. A further 51 incidents are still under investigation. The team also carried out 34 peer-to-peer support actions which benefited 461 media workers.

CRITICAL ISSUES – Paid work has been combined with free volunteer services, as expected. However, limited human resources did not permit half of the cases detected to be subjected to the in-depth verification necessary for assistance and active support actions.

 

  1. THE LIMITATIONS ON PRESS FREEDOM

The monitoring, assistance and protection activity confirmed that:

  • The intimidating pressure on journalists and newspapers is strong and ever present and in some parts of the country it is very high;
  • Threats to journalists are substantially unchallenged;
  • Threats continue at the same worrying pace as in previous years;
  • The perpetrators of these threats, with few exceptions, go unpunished;
  • Authorities do not take adequate measures to combat these threats;
  • Journalists who experience severe intimidation, especially those subject to manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings (SLAPPs), are financially harmed;
  • Solidarity with threatened journalists is weak.
  1. ACTIONS IN SUPPORT OF 461 JOURNALISTS

The monitoring provided all the information necessary to carry out, rapidly, 34 free support actions to journalists in difficulty. The beneficiaries were at least 461 journalists and other media workers.

In three months MAP performed:

  • 26 individual rapid support actions in favour of as many journalists in difficulty
  • 5 collective support actions in favour of 15 editorial offices with an estimated 135 journalists benefitting
  • 3 general indirect support actions, to help all journalists in difficulty. They aim to disseminate good practices and promote new legislation on defamation, eliminating imprisonment and preventing unfounded complaints from being used with impunity to intimidate journalists. For the latter action it is not possible to accurately count the large number of direct beneficiaries and therefore their number is nominally fixed at 300.

 

Type of support No. of actions Beneficiaries
Individual 26 34
Group 5 135
Collective 3 300
TOTAL 34 461

 

The support actions carried out include:

– Public solidarity to help journalists break their isolation;

– Opinions on how to react to the attacks suffered

– Legal analysis, opinions, guidelines and benefits

– Assistance in accessing legal assistance

– Promotion of good practices (to obtain apologies and legal fees)

– Introduction of a new offence to stop impunity

– Advocacy for the amendment of the legislation on defamation

 

PUBLIC DOCUMENTATION

 ARTICLES – These are some of the original articles published on the Ossigeno web magazine to describe the support actions.

1) “The Rome Press Association and Ossigeno to senators from the Democratic Party: introduce a new offence of obstructing information” (23 February 2022) (read)

2) “Defamation. A freelance journalist defended by Ossigeno acquitted after 7 years “(Vanessa Valvo, acquitted, the affair – 1 March 2022) (read) (read)

3) “Lawsuits, freelancers, publishers. Who pays the legal fees for published articles? “(Alberto Spampinato’s editorial on the case of Vanessa Valvo, 1 March 2022) (read)

4) “Defamation. The reflections of Vanessa Valvo, tried and acquitted after 7 years “(Vanessa Valvo, acquitted, tells her story, 1 March 2022) (read)

5) “Attack on the free press in Calabria”. Warning by newspapers, Order of Journalists, and the trade union”. (2 March 2022) (read)

6) “First problem, the gagging lawsuits. Memorandum of the Order of Journalists to the Italian Minister of Justice “(March 2, 2022) (read)

7) “Too many lawsuits in Calabria! Ossigeno shares the alarm raised by the regional newspapers “(March 3, 2022) (read)

8) “We journalists are targets. Marilù Mastrogiovanni: what I’ve learned “(17 March 2022) (read) 9) “Thoughts and words of a freelance journalist who is served a lawsuit” (inspired by the case of Giuseppe Spallino, 24 March 2022) (read)

10) “Legal Aid . Ossigeno defends the monthly Vasto Domani cited for € 250,000 in damages “(25 March 2022) (read)

11) “Ossigeno helps a sued and acquitted journalist who has to pay the lawyer” (April 13, 2022) (read)

12) “You can’t film us! Video reporter reported in Rome by the police in 2019 acquitted “(Cosimo Caridi, acquitted, 21 April 2022) (read)

13) “From Ossigeno MAP  ‘peer to peer l support’ to reporters in difficulty. What does it consist of “(April 22, 2022) (read)

14) “Gagging complaints. The new directive of the EU Commission “(April 28, 2022) (read)

15) “Gagging complaints. EU gives the wake up call to member countries with a directive “(April 28, 2022) (read)

  1. GENDER DISCRIMINATION: 61 FEMALE JOURNALISTS THREATENED

The MAP team has prioritised examining the intimidation of women (journalists and other media workers). In examining these episodes, observers have given each of them greater priority and visibility. In addition, they systematically verified whether such attacks constitute, as often happens, discrimination of a sexist nature against female journalists and gender bias also within the journalism profession. This aspect of the question, also as regards the language used to talk about it, will be explored in a study edited by the journalist Marilù Mastrogiovanni (president of the jury of the UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Award) in collaboration with the Master course in Journalism of the University of Bari and the collaboration of its students. The results will be presented in November in Bari at the Forum of Mediterranean Journalists.

  1. 119 THREATS AGAINST 242 JOURNALISTS IDENTIFIED

Between February and April 2022, the Observatory examined 119 individual incidents of intimidation, threats, retaliation against 242 journalists and other media workers , of which 25% are women. Observers became aware of these episodes by consulting various sources.

RESULTS OF THE TESTS – The 119 episodes identified were subjected to the various levels of verification required by the Ossigeno Monitoring Method. As specified in Table 1, with the following result:

-16 DISCARDED EPISODES – 16 of the 119 episodes were discarded by observers because they were not part of the series under observation or because it was not possible to find the information necessary to evaluate them.

– 34 VERIFIED VIOLATIONS: after a thorough check of the facts, these threats against 118 journalists (23% women) were deemed to be actual violations of the right to information provided for in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. They were classified by observers as the incidents deserving the greatest interest and priority attention. The in-depth verification with the Ossigeno Method provides for consultation with those threatened and the knowledge of what has been published by them and the acquisition of documents proving the nature, type and consistency of the acts of intimidation or retaliation suffered.

-18 PROBABLE VIOLATIONS: Due to limited resources, these 18 threats to 52 journalists were only subjected to a first-level audit which suggested the usefulness of further investigation into the case. Therefore, these episodes were publicly reported with the label of “Probable threats” and with the invitation to others to help Ossigeno verify if the journalists involved urgently need help and deserve to be assisted.

TABLE 1 – MONITORING OF THE VIOLATIONS – February – April 2022

 

2022 – February-April NUMBER OF INCIDENTS INDIVIDUAL TARGETS No. OF WOMEN % OF WOMEN No. OF MEN % OF MEN
IDENTIFIED* 119 242 61 25% 181 75%
DISCARDED 16 21 6 29% 15 71%
CONSIDERED PROBABLE 18 52 12 23% 40 77%
CONFIRMED AFTER IN-DEPTH CHECKING 118 27 23% 91 77%
STILL BEING ASSESSED 51 51* 16 31% 35 69%

 

TYPE OF THREATS DETECTED AND THEIR ORIGIN – The resources available, as already mentioned, have allowed Ossigeno to carry out the necessary in-depth verification only for 34 of the 119 violations detected. These checks made it possible to certify their  validity and to obtain the information necessary to publish them in detail, on the web site and on social networks, indicating the type and context of the threat, the location and the gender of the victim.

It transpired that two out of three threatened suffered physical violence (assaults and warnings) and one in three has suffered unfounded, spurious, intimidating legal action. Cases of damage and hindered access to information were also detected.

These are the types of threats:

TABLE 2 – Typology of the facts-checked violations

Percentages INDIVIDUAL TARGETS
Warnings 57% 77
Aggressions 6%  8
SLAPPs 35% 48
Physical damage 1% 1
Access to information hindered 1% 2
TOTAL 100% 136

 

ORIGIN OF THE THREATS – 13% of the threats come from criminal circles, 12% from the business world, 13% from the public sector and 50% from private citizens. These facts disprove the false, deeply rooted belief that most of the threats to Italian journalists come from organised crime.

TABLE 3 – Source of the attacks

ORIGIN* % INCIDENTS V=FACT-CHECKED

P= PROBABLES

Mafia and other criminal organisations 13% 7 7V+0P
Entrepreneurs and companies 12% 6 1V+5P
Individuals and social organizations 54% 28 20V+8P
Authorities and public organizations 13% 7 4V+3P
 Media world 2% 1 1V+0P
Unknown 6% 3 1V+2P
TOTAL 100% 52 52

 

  1. DOCUMENTATION OF VIOLATIONS

Both the substantiated facts and the probable violations were published , one by one, with original articles and posts on social networks, indicating  for each the degree of reliability (verified or probable).

TABLE 4

How the fact-checked and probable violations have been documented

With in-depth articles 19
With short articles 32
In the online List  of Names 34
Total of news 85

The articles were published on the online newsletter www.ossigeno.info and on Ossigeno‘s social channels, in Italian and English. These articles report the names of the threatened, the type and origin of the intimidation, the dynamics of the situations, and the opinions of the people involved. They also report the solidarity statements and comments of Ossigeno and others and contextualize each case with reference to the general phenomenon,

Before proceeding with the publication, the observers examined the individual cases (fact-checking), first of all to ascertain that the threatened journalists acted in compliance with the ethics of journalism and only in this case they proceeded to gather the information necessary to objectively evaluate the evolution of the events s. In cases of abusive court proceedings, observers acquired and examined the related legal  documents, making use of legal experts where necessary.

 

  1. COMMUNICATION

PUBLIC COMMUNICATION was achieved by producing and publishing 104 articles, 213 posts on social networks (which reached 70,244 people and had 51 total views) and discussing the cases in 2 webinars.

The documentation of each violation detected within the MAP project has been made public with original articles published online on the website www.ossigeno.info and disseminated with weekly newsletters and posts on Ossigeno‘s social profiles, in Italian and English, which are been relaunched by several varied users. In particular, 4 thousand users interacted with Facebook posts and 894 mentions were registered on Twitter for a total of 10 thousand visits to the profile. Media workers who are victims of violations have contributed to giving visibility to Ossigeno‘s action by re-launching posts and tweets on their social profiles.

TABLE 5 – COMMUNICATION    February – April 2022

 

Total In Italian In English Audience
Articles on www.ossigeno.info 104  78 26
Posts on Facebook   95  95 0 70.244 people reached
Posts on Twitter 108  82 26 51.100 total views
*Webinars     2     2
TOTAL   307   283

 

 

NAMES AND SURNAMES of the victims of the violations have been published in compliance with the requirements of confidentiality and security together with all the significant details of the incidents. The victims of the violations were consulted and their assessments of the facts obtained. This direct consultation did not take place for a limited number of episodes deemed “full blown”, as the dynamics of the facts were already clear and fully verifiable having been widely made public.

The posts on Facebook reached 70,244 people in three months. The most followed posts concern: the case of the journalist Cosimo Caridi who obtained 10 thousand views, 529 reactions, comments and shares and 437 clicks on the post; the case of Vanessa Valvo who obtained 4,200 views, 23 likes and 72 clicks on the post; the post with data on threatened journalists shared on 8 March which reached 1,735 people, obtaining 40 reactions, comments and shares, 13 clicks on the post.

Posts on Twitter launched by the Ossigeno account from February to April obtained 51,100 total views. The most followed are: the declaration of the president of Ossigeno of 21st March on the dangerous conditions of war correspondents , which obtained 12 thousand views and 500 exchanges; and the case of Sandro Ruotolo which obtained 1,745 views.

  1. VISIBILITY OF THE PROJECT

All publications on the web and on social networks are labelled saying that they were created under the auspices of the GMDF and the MAP project. The project was publicly presented on two occasions:

  • on 21st March 2022 in Rome during a public conference organized by Ossigeno in collaboration with the journalism organizations of Lazio (the journalists’ union and the Order of Journalists). The conference had a wide response: 19 posts were launched on Facebook, reaching 4,500 users; 28 tweets were shared on Twitter, which obtained 9,300 overall views and citations from journalists and public bodies , including those of the culture counsellor of the city of Rome, Miguel Gotor, Rome media, La Sapienza University. On YouTube, the live video got 89 total views. Furthermore, the statements of the speakers were taken up by the main Italian press agencies, such as ANSA, AGI and, DIRE; the conference was reported by various online newspapers, such as Avvenire, Il Mattino, Romadailynews, ladige.it, Professionereporter.eu, and Antimafia2000. A television report was produced by the editorial staff of state broadcaster RAI Lazio.
  • on 27th March 2022 in Rome during a webinar organized by the Lazio Journalists Union (Rome Press Association) entitled ‘Lawsuits and threats: how to defend yourself’, which was attended by 90 journalists. During the webinar, 5 tweets were launched from Ossigeno‘s Twitter account, which obtained 1,105 total views and 10 retweets; 5 posts were shared on Facebook which reached 1,400 users and got 45 interactions.

Furthermore:

  • Ossigeno spoke about the MAP project during the meetings and contacts with some international organizations. In particular, with Media Defence, with the staff of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, and the officials of the European Commission in charge of preparing the second report on the implementation of the rule of law in Italy in the field of the right to information .
  • By June Ossigeno will organize a public presentation of the data collected by the MAP Project during the first implementation period
  1. SYNERGIES

In the months of February and March 2022, the President of Ossigeno proposed to some academic and media organizations to collaborate in the implementation of some activities of the MAP Project.

The National Order of Journalists and the Lazio Journalists’ Union have expressed their interest.

 

 

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.