Italy. Ossigeno Legal Aid helps journalist to pay the costs of a lawsuit for defamation

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Why Matteo Alborghetti was awarded of a contribution to defend himself in court against a mayor’s accusations of defamation

OSSIGENO 17th  May 2024 – The Ossigeno Legal Desk which operates in collaboration with Media Defence, to provide free legal aid to journalists in difficulty,  has granted a monetary contribution to cover legal expenses to the journalist Matteo Alborghetti. In this text, written expressly for Ossigeno, the journalist bitterly recounts the story that led him to abandon his full-time job as a reporter.

I thank the Ossigeno per l’Informazione organisation for the opportunity  it gives me to talk about my ordeals and for giving me, through its Legal Aid Help Desk, a monetary contribution to cover the expenses I had to bear to defend myself in legal proceedings in which I was charged in relation to my legitimate journalistic activity.

It is the first time in years that someone has finally given attention and prominence to my legal affairs, to the “reckless lawsuits” that I have been subjected to in recent years and which have led me reluctantly to abandon my main activity, my work as a journalist.

The lawsuits  I received, the fact of having to defend myself by spending money on lawyers and the fact of being left alone, without help from the newspaper I wrote for, forced me to look for another job, after years spent becoming a professional journalist.

I have collaborated in the past with many newspapers. I worked on TV. I managed to become a professional journalist. But in the end I had to stop. I had to resign myself to the fact that today, in Italy, whoever wants to be a journalist… must not really be a journalist.

Let me explain, anyone who wants to make a living with this activity must avoid problems, annoyances, hot investigations, uncomfortable news for the powerful and for overbearing and vindictive people. He or she must behave like this, especially if writing for a small provincial newspaper that cannot or does not want to defend you when you are dragged to court with unfounded or specious accusations. Better to avoid news that could lead to legal costs. Better to limit yourself to writing news about parties, music groups, Alpine excursions or to passively transcribe what people want you to know with press conferences. Better to write news about the inauguration of public works and not about scams or malfeasance, events which also concern the valleys and municipalities of northern Italy, as I finally managed to demonstrate, albeit spending a lot of money on it. In recent years I have faced two criminal trials for defamation which have put my professional determination to the test.

I consider significant the story of the mayor of my municipality who sued me for defamation for an article criticising his work in relation to what I believed to be a clear conflict of interest in a tender. The lawsuit makes its way to the General Prosecutor who decides not to proceed. But to obtain this dismissal of the case  I was forced to hire a lawyer to defend me, resulting in legal costs.

One of the mayor’s lawsuits has even turned against him. In fact, the prosecuting magistrate directs the accusation at the mayor for continued slander, for the violation of the articles, 81 paragraph 1 and 368 of the penal code whilst among the injured parties the undersigned, the editor of the newspaper and a member of the opposition.  But everything ends up being dismissed.

In February 2023, the mayor in question, in his second mandate, and the manager of the Technical Office were accused of disrupting both the functioning of auctions and the freedom of the procedure for choosing a contractor. The procedure for the supply of building materials ended under the lens of the investigators and the judiciary. Only one company had participated in the tender, which was then entrusted with the task even though – in reality – the materials would have been supplied to the Municipality from the family business of the mayor who is a 45% shareholder, as I wrote in the article. The mayor ended  up under house arrest.

Faced with constant threats and the fact of having to pay huge legal expenses to defend myself against accusations of this type, I have decided to leave journalism. I could not afford the risk of having to pay lawyers at my own expense, having a modest income, a family to support and a mortgage to pay. I had to change my life and my work. The newspaper I wrote for left me alone to face charges and threats. I continue to write on three websites that I have created, two dedicated to athletics, my other passion, and, and one dedicated to the administrative events of my area, on which I continue to write freely, In recent years, despite my reports to the Order of Journalists and other journalists’ associations, no one has ever come to my defence.

Therefore I once again thank the Ossigeno per l’Informazione.

Matteo Alborghetti


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