The first monthly report created by Ossigeno with the support of the European Union for the European Centre for Freedom of the Press and Media of Leipzig (ECPMF)
May has been a difficult month for Italian journalists. Intolerance towards those who report news events, to those who express critiques and opinions, has occurred frequently, strongly and widespread; at the centre and in the peripheries of the country, through acts that meet weak resistance. This is demonstrated by the incidents detected by Ossigeno per l’Informazione with its active monitoring. They report threats, acts of intimidation, abuse of legal instruments. The survey confirms that the investigation to find out and punish those who threaten journalists are rare and belated, that journalists easily end up in court, often on trumped up charges of defamation, and that must defend themselves against often unfounded accusations and often are sentenced to prison too. Indeed, while we await for Parliament to put an end to the barbarism of the prison sentence for libel, courts continue to sentence guilty journalists to jail. Among other things, in May Italian journalists have discovered that the rules on defamation are more punitive than previously thought. They also learned that the bill that has dragged on for two years in Parliament, when it will be approved, will not prevent the abuse of lawsuits to intimidate, nor will it solve other serious problems. The roundup of the facts reported by Ossigeno per l’Informazione provides a complete picture of every nuance and every case.
On May 5th, 2015 Sandro Ruotolo, one of the best-known TV journalists, was threatened by a boss of the Camorra who, from a maximum security prison, has made it known to his men who are active on the territory that they want to be torn to pieces. Since then, the journalist has been living under police protection. Over the last year the number of journalists under protection was already increased by three, escalating beyond 15, according to Ossigeno estimates. According to the report published on 11th May by the website repubblica.it, they would actually be between thirty and fifty. No one has contested this fact.
On the same day of the threats against Ruotolo, in Guidonia, a small town near Rome, in broad daylight, in the city centre, the car of the journalist Elisabetta Aniballi, spokesman for the mayor, was damaged by a rudimentary bomb.
On May 3rd in Reggio Calabria and on May 25th in Porto Recanati, in the Marche region, in the night two arson attacks destroyed the parked cars of two journalists, Aurelio Bufalari and Lorenzo Vitto. The flames threatened the house of the latter.
On May 7th, near Pisa, Wolf Marongiu, a video reporter who was filming a construction site from a public highway, was attacked and beaten by a man who ordered him not to film.
On May 9th in Campania, the journalist Billy Nuzzolillo he was beaten by some hooligans. In some articles he had criticized their football team.
On May 9th, in Formia, two hours from Rome, the journalist Francesco Furlan was assaulted by an entrepreneur who, after having slapped him, sued him for libel. In an article Furlan had criticized the award criteria for a public contract of the City.
The same day, in Florence, Marco Ferini, reporter of the TV show “La Gabbia”, an inquiry show for the television network La7, and the video operator who assisted him, were threatened and beaten while collecting information near a squat shed.
On May 15th, it came to light that in Milan, Elisabetta Andreis, an editor of the Corriere della Sera, after the publication of an investigation into the racket of judicial sales in auctions on seized property, received a phone threat. It happened in 2013. But only now the investigations have revealed that the call had originated from the hall of the office of a senior magistrate.
On May 25th in Ostia, Federica Angeli, a journalist of the newspaper La Repubblica, which lives under police protection since 2013, was hit by threatening insults. She had described in an article the state of neglect and lawlessness of a village twenty kilometres from Rome.
On May 25th, Michele Buono, a RAI journalist, suffered a personal menacing attack: in front of the entrance of the RAI headquarters, unknown persons have put up a banner that called him a “terrorist.” The day before, in a service of the inquiry show “Report”, the journalist had criticized the excesses of the protest by Roman taxi drivers against Uber.
On May 16th in Sardinia, Michele Ruffi, a reporter of the newspaper L’Unione Sarda, asked a former archbishop to comment on the arrest of a parish priest, which took place on May 6th, on charges of harassment against minors. The high prelate replied to the reporter saying that he would have told the faithful not to buy his newspaper any more.
On May 17th, in Puglia, the journalist Antonio Tufariello published in the newspaper La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno a critical profile of the candidate for mayor of the town of Cerignola (in the province of Foggia), known to have slapped and hit with a chair one of his collaborators. In the following days, during the election meetings, the candidate has repeatedly insulted and denigrated the journalist.
On May 29th, an anonymous letter with death threats was delivered to Nicola Costanzo, of the daily Il Quotidiano del Sud, Calabria. The letter contained a few lines in dialect and ended with an explicit threat: “Mind your own business or I’ll shoot you” and cites a number of articles written by the reporter.
Ossigeno has also reported an episode of intolerance against journalistic activity. Although these episodes can not be considered as real acts of intimidation, they nonetheless help understand the kind of climate of hostility and misunderstanding that journalists live in in order to do their work.
On May 21st and 22nd, in Rome, Leonardo Metalli, a journalist for RAI, the company that carries out the public broadcasting service, was suspended from work for two days for disciplinary reasons. The company challenged a post he made on Facebook in which he asked why the café of the RAI headquarters in Saxa Rubra is managed by people involved in the great scandal known as “Roma Capitale” for which public officials, criminals, far right extremists and mobsters were arrested.
The defamation axe
In May, journalists have learned that in Italy the law on libel is even more punitive than previously thought. The results of different court trials has shown that in Italy with every article a journalist is threatened to lose the gains of a life time as well as his family assets. In fact, for that article he can be sued for defamation and prosecuted without probable cause and, even after many years, will be sentenced to pay out of his own pockets a very expensive compensation, in excess of his income and his savings.
It is necessary to know that in Italy only a few publishers cover the expenses of journalists in case of convictions for defamation in relation to published articles. The lucky journalists who enjoy such coverage from publishers are a minority. These journalists believed that their personal assets were immune from risk. But they found ou that it is not so. If the publisher is going through financial straits and either tries to sell the company or files for bankrupt, the commitment to support legal costs and compensation disappears. As a result the entire responsibility of the case lies with the author of the article. This has happened in recent months to dozens of journalists working for the newspaper L’Unità, the historical daily of the Italian Communist Party founded in 1924 by Antonio Gramsci, and which on July 31, 2014, after many vicissitudes, has ceased publication. The case of L’Unità has been a cause for concern, highlighting a serious lack of legislation. This has increased the chilling effect on freedom of information due to archaic and punitive defamation legislation.
An even more dramatic conviction for defamation of the same kind came to light during this month, and it concerns the journalist Antonio Cipriani, formerly managing director of the E-Polis free press newspapers. This chain of fifteen newspapers has ceased publication in July 2011. The following year, the publisher declared bankruptcy. Since then Antonio Cipriani underwent 34 trials for defamation in connection with articles of other journalists published by E-Polis in previous years. In fact, as chief editor responsible for all charges of criminal defamation Cipriani, shares responsibility with the author of the article. His publisher, having declared bankruptcy, has stopped paying the fees of lawyers who assisted him and other journalists of the group and stopped taking paying out compensation charges as determined by the courts. Cipriani had to pay by himself all these expenses. In 2014 he was sentenced in the first degree for libel to five months in prison and, having exhausted his savings, and not having any more money to cover the costs, he did not advance the request to suspend the sentence and hold an appeal. Therefore, his sentence has become enforceable and he now risks being taken to jail. “I had no more money to defend myself. I finished my savings”, he said.
Sixteen years of prison sentences for defamation in four years
Imprisonment for defamation is a barbaric requirement of the Italian Penal Code. A barbarity that has a very strong chilling effect on freedom of information. This effect manifests itself indirectly, because the journalist does not go to prison until he accumulates sentences of more than two years of detention. But someone regularly exceeds this threshold and the infamous law strains reality further. The prison sentences for libel are more numerous than it appears by reading the newspapers that rarely speak of libel suits. Journalists in fact do not want to the fact that they are being sued for defamation to be known, even when they are convinced that the lawsuit is spurious, unfounded, and intimidating; let alone the fact that they do not want to let people know that they have been convicted, even when they are firmly convinced that the sentence was unjust. They tend to feel an unjustified sense of guilt that is telling of how strong the effects of intimidating, specious and instrumental lawsuits are on defamation.
This silence and the lack of official statistics hide the seriousness of the situation. But just open the eyes and gather that little information that is available to have a first gauge of the situation. And it is what Ossigeno per l’Informazione did, when on May 22nd it announced an impressive statistic derived from a study on the results of its monitoring: from 2011 to April 2015, at least twenty journalists were sentenced to prison terms for libel, for a total of sixteen years of detention. Only two of these convictions are enforceable, those of Alessandro Sallusti and Francesco Cangemi, and both have returned free after a few days in jail. But the intimidating effect of these convictions on who gathers particularly sensitive information has occurred all the same.
The chief editors responsible are exposed to convictions for libel more frequently than their ordinary editors because they respond to any posted content, even when they overlook newspapers that publish a hundred or more pages every day. Their impossible mission continually puts them in the hands of judges who, according to the Criminal Code, may sentence them to prison terms of up to six years, and that also condemn them to prison terms for publishing content not deemed journalistic. This is demonstrated by the paradoxical sentence to eight months of detention to the journalist Pierluigi Visci, chief editor of the newspaper of Bologna Il Resto del Carlino. On May 21stthe judge held him liable for defamation because his newspaper published an obituary deemed disrespectful of the good image of a deceased person. The reform of the law on defamation, which has been for two years before Parliament, should solve the problem of prison but if passed in the current version would leave many problems unresolved. Among other things, it would not prevent the misuse of claims to intimidate and the unfounded complaints, which are very frequent.
The events mentioned in this report have had little or no space in the Italian media. The decision to place the television reporter Sandro Ruotolo under police protection is an exception: it has indeed received good media attention. Even the story of the journalist Enzo Palmesano had some echo. He was fired from a newspaper because the Mafia boss of Campania did not like his articles. It happened in 2003 but it was written in the judgment of a trial in December 2014, and only on 14th May this story has been told to the public, thanks to the acclaimed writer Roberto Saviano with an article on the newspaper La Repubblica.
Some modest attention was aroused by the judicial misadventures of the journalists of the daily L’Unità.
Statistics for may 2015
In May 2015 Ossigeno reported 14 cases of intimidation against as many journalists, bloggers and media workers, and published 47 articles in Italian, 18 in English and 18 in French. Also, it released 8 newsletters in Italian and three in English. These are the typologies detected.
Five assaults. Two damages (arson attacks). Seven warnings, one of which coming from the Mafia and with clear danger of death, so much so to have induced the authorities to assign police protection to the journalist Sandro Ruotolo. Two instrumental lawsuits.
Over the 2300 mark
In the first 149 days of 2015, Ossigeno has documented threats to 116 journalists. It also made known threats to other 53 journalists for episodes that occurred in previous years but were not yet known to the Observatory. The episodes are listed in chronological order in the Table of names of the victims that is available online. By clicking on a name in the Table, the page will open on the Ossigeno website that tells the case. For every new case of verified threat, the Observatory adds the name of the victim to the Table of names of threatened journalists, increasing the counter posted on the homepage on notiziario.ossigeno.info/ together with the map indicating the geographical distribution of threats. The counter indicates the number of journalists who were intimidated during the current year and the total number of threats reported by the Observatory since 2006. From 1st January 2015 the counter has had an increase of 169 units and the total has risen to 2314. According to Ossigeno estimates, for each intimidation documented by the Observatory, at least ten others remain unknown because the victims do not have the strength to go public.
Michele Zagaria, intercepted, asks to skin him alive. The origin of the threats was an interview with the ‘repentant’ Carmine Schiavone. The shadow of a “negotiation
It happened in the night of May 3, 2015. Lorenzo Vitto (Gazzetta dello Sport and Stretto Web) was not at home
Marco Ferini was outside of a warehouse squat in Florence. He was threatened and then hit with a plastic bin and other.
This is the only way to give significance to the 8th Day of Remembrance of killed journalists. Proposals and a deadline to accomplish results –
Wolf Marongiu was punched in the street. The camera was broken. The hospital diagnosed 15 days of prognosis and a micro fracture.
Billy Nuzzolillo had attended the match Puglianiello vs. Virtus Goti in the first division. He was attacked by tens hoolgans at the end of the match.
In 2013 Elisabetta Andreis received a threatening phone call. According to the investigation, the call started from the antechamber of the President of the Court of Appeal
Ossigeno data disclosed at a training course at the National Central Library. Debate between Iacopino and Della Volpe with the speaker of the law under discussion in the Parliament.
The announcement during the training course by Ossigeno at the National Central Library of Rome. There is a possibility of positive changes, he said.
L’atto intimidatorio in pieno giorno vicino agli uffici comunali. Forse alla base del gesto il lavoro di Elisabetta Aniballi per il periodico Il Municipale.
Il 5 maggio conferenza alla Camera della Fnsi. Oltre 500mila euro il conto per 26 giornalisti ed ex direttore.
Lo scrittore racconta su la Repubblica la storia del giornalista di Pignataro Maggiore già resa nota da Ossigeno
Il quotidiano romano dice che i cronisti protetti dalla polizia sono almeno il doppio rispetto a quelli finora calcolati da Ossigeno
Antonio Cipriani was responsible for 15 free-press newspapers. The publisher is gone. He faced by himself 34 trials for omitted control. Sentenced by the court of Oristano.
Confermata a Leonardo Metalli la sanzione annunciata a febbraio. Solidarietà da Cdr del Tg1, Usigrai e Stampa Romana. “Sconcerto per una scelta incomprensibile”
Aggredito, insultato e denunciato: per Francesco Furlan direttore del giornale on line H24Notizie.com, non è il primo episodio. E’ successo a Formia per un articolo su un affidamento comunale.
“È un atto doloso, mi sono sentito morire, qui ci sono fenomeni criminosi preoccupanti”, dice Aurelio Bufalari, corrispondente del Corriere Adriatico.
Infastidito dalle domande su un prete pedofilo, monsignor Giuseppe Mani aggredisce verbalmente il giornalista
Per la pubblicazione sul Resto del Carlino di un testo corrosivo dell’immagine del defunto. Il giornalista Pierluigi Visci risponde di omesso controllo.
“Giornalista terrorista 100mila taxi SK” è la scritta apparsa a Roma davanti alla sede della Rai di via Teulada. Nel mirino un servizio sul servizio di trasporto alternativo al taxi
Gerardo Bevilacqua ha insultato il cronista Antonio Tufariello in tre diverse occasioni, due interviste ed un comizio. Solidarietà dall’Odg Puglia e Assostampa
Searches and charges against authors of Facebook threats against journalists; some with a criminal record. Order of Journalists of Sicily thanks prefect and police commissioner.
Mind you own business or I’ll shoot you”. Nicola Costanzo, editor of the Quotidiano del Sud, handed it in to the police and pressed charges against unknowns.