Italy. The most dangerous news. December 2017

This monthly summary of the attacks upon media workers in Italy is prepared by Ossigeno per l’Informazione for the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) in Leipzig with the support of the European Union

423 victims in 2017
With the data gathered in December, Ossigeno can obtain the total for the year just ended: in 2017 the Osservatorio has identified 423 victims of attacks, threats and intimidation directed at journalists, bloggers and other information workers; attacks which have limited freedom of expression and of the press in Italy (read more). The names of these media workers can be added to those already documented from 2006 to 2016. Ossigeno’s threat counter has thus reached 3508 (see here the complete list of the names).In the month of December 2017 alone, Ossigeno has added a further 50 names, highlighting the relevant episodes and classifying them according to the categories of intimidation contained in the specific monitoring method devised ad hoc. These are the figures for December: 10 warnings (20%), attacks (40%); 1 damage (2%); 7 complaints and legal action (14%) 12 obstructions to the freedom of information (24%) (See the data in detail here).

Overview of the 2017 data. During the year Ossigeno has been able to check out carefully the reliability of 216 different episodes of serious violation of the freedom of information. The confirmed episodes are 14 fewer than in 2016. But instead the victims are 11 more than in 2016 and for women 25%. The number of victims is almost double the number of episodes examined because in 87 of these cases several persons were targeted.
The predominant form of attack was warnings (37%) followed by complaints and other  legal actions (32%). Then there are physical attacks/aggression (20%), actions obstructing the freedom of information by means not prosecutable by law (7%) and damage to personal or company possessions. It is the first year since 2013 that the percentage of warnings exceeds that of vexatious legal action.

Geographic distribution. The region with the biggest number of victims was Lazio (720) followed by Campania (442), Lombardy (373), Sicily (297), Puglia (189), Calabria (169) followed by the others (see the aggregated data here).

The alarm regarding Lazio and Rome. Between the capital and its surroundings there were 141 victims, 33% of the entire national area. In Lazio there has been an increase of 8 percentage points relative to 2016. This concentration of intimidations and threats has been repeatedly highlighted by Ossigeno from May onwards and is presented in a dossier entitled Allarme Lazio (read here).

Ossigeno’s figures mirror the trend of intimidations and threats carried out in Italy against journalists and describe in detail 6% of the phenomenon. In fact to have a reliable estimate of the number of journalists effectively affected by these violations during the year, the number of identified cases should, therefore, be multiplied by 15. Making this multiplication (423 x 15) a figure of 6435 potential victims is obtained.

The most urgent questions
Press freedom: 19 with police escorts but one cannot say, “Italy is the black sheep”
Last year on the 6th December the Minister of the Interior published the data relative to the number of journalists with police escorts in Italy (read more here): there are 19 protected by armed escorts composed of 2-4 officers and armoured cars. This protection was given to journalists who had received death threats from the mafia and from extreme right wing groups. Several of these journalists have had police protection since 2007. The police has assured lighter measures of surveillance to a further 167 media workers.

Defamation. Another Parliamentary legislature has ended without abolishing imprisonment
In the meantime the last legislature ended on the 28th December without approving the draft legislation aimed at abolishing prison for defamation and without closing the wounds of the thousands of accusations for this offence put forward each year, speciously, with intimidatory intent, against 5000 journalists.  Ossigeno had predicted that the draft legislation was going to end up in a dead end (read more) and had indicated ways to avoid that. The Italian Parliament has attempted since 2001, that is for four electoral terms- to reform article 595 of the 1930 penal code and the media law of 1948 but has never changed anything. To be honest, in the legislature just ended, the parliamentarians appeared to be close to the finishing line. But it was an illusion (read more here).

The incidents in December 
Research freedom. ENI sentenced for reckless disputes. It had asked for 5 million
The Rome civil tribunal sentenced the energy company ENI to pay 50 000 euro (25 000 for reckless disputes and a further 25 000 for legal expenses) to Professor Albina Colella, lecturer in geology at the University of Basilicata. In 2015 ENI had sued her for defamation and asked for five and a half million euro.

“I wasn’t a Brigate Rosse supporter” and asks for damages. The Supreme Court says no
The Supreme Court rejected a request for damages of 260 000 euro against the  former editor of La Stampa, Marcello Sorgi and the legal representative of the publishing company, Alessandro Bianco.  The lawsuit had been presented in 2010 by Norberto Natali who claimed to have been erroneously described in several articles as “a terrorist, supporter of the Brigate Rosse”. Natali was ordered to pay 16 000 euro of legal expenses.

Sava (Taranto) Mimmo Carrieri reports new threats
The journalist, a collaborator with the online newspaper, Viv@Voce has again received death threats and fears for his own safety. A reliable source informed him that, “they want to break your legs”. As a result, the active vigilance provided to him in 2012 after his car was set on fire, has been intensified.

Defamation: Web: Two articles by Marilù Mastrogiovanni have been confiscated
On the 19th September the general prosecutor of the Lecce tribunal has ordered the preventative confiscation of two articles by the journalist, published in the online journal, Il Tacco d’Italia of which she is the editor. Simultaneously the posts with the same text published on the journal’s Facebook page have been covered up.

Calabria: Complaint against journalist
On the 30th September, the public official of the Tribunal of Reggio Calabria, Massimo Baraldo requested this measure on behalf of Adrianna Musella, president of the anti-Mafia association, “Riferimenti” for his accusations directed at the journalist of Corriere della Calabria, Alessia Candito.

Bologna: Telephone records of two journalists obtained without their knowledge
On the 24th October, during a trial hearing, the journalists Gianluca Rotondi (Il Corriere di Bologna) and Gilberto Dondi (Il Resto del Carlino) became aware that on the 25th January 2015 the chief prosecutor of the Procura di Bologna, Valter Giovannini had requested their phone records. At that time, the journalists were examining the dispute over the heritage of a well-known manufacturer of automatic gates. A similar case also concerned three journalists from Emilia.

Immigrant trafficking: In Palermo a collaborator of The Guardian has been bugged
On the 10th November Lorenzo Tondo, a collaborator with the British daily, during a trial in Palermo, discovered he had been bugged twice, last February and March, whilst he was on the phone to an informer regarding an investigation into human trafficking.

Naples: Photojournalist beaten up at a murder crime scene
On the 15th November in the Ponticelli neighbourhood a photojournalist was punched twice in the face by a man whilst he was recording at the scene of a murder by the Camorra. His attacker was a relative of the victim.

La7’s car damaged during a demonstration at Ostia
On the 16th November two tyres of the car of the television crew from La7’s programme, L’Aria che tira, were slashed by persons unknown, whilst the crew were recording in the neighbourhood where on the 7th November Daniele Piervinceni and Edoardo Anselmi were attacked  by a member of the Spada clan (Nemo, Raidue).

Data storage confiscated from two journalists following their articles on the secret services
On the 17th November the Guardia di Finanza on instructions from the Procura di Roma, has confiscated two USB sticks from the journalists Nicola Borzi (Il Sole24Ore) and Francesco Bonazzi (La Verità) authors of several articles on the banking operations of Banca Popolare di Vicenza conducted by the secret services. The  officers also confiscated the hard disk of Borzi’s office computer. The two journalists are under investigation; they are regarded as witnesses in an investigation into unknowns for revealing state secrets (art.261cp).

Football: At Pisa, a journalist struck in the face by a hooligan
On the 26th November outside the Arena Garibaldi stadium, during the derby with Livorno (Lega Pro category), a hooligan supporter of Pisa, irritated by the presence of the video camera struck the face of the journalist Luca Lunedi cutting his lip.

Albanian Premier dismisses a programme of Iene, then takes a step back
The head of the Albanian government, Edi Rama reacted to a feature of the television programme regarding the exploitation of child labour in Albania, describing the broadcast as “trash” and accusing the reporters of having re-cycled old film and reporting falsehoods. Then he partially retracted without however explicitly apologising.

Rome: Solidarity with Lirio Abbate again in the sights of the lawyer of Carminati
The defence lawyer of Massimo Carminati, Giosue Naso maintained that a “colossal manipulation of the historical truth” has weighed damagingly on his client and on the truth. Naso holds responsible also “two-bit journalists purporting to be heroic champions of the truth”. Although not naming names, the reference seems clearly directed at the deputy director of l’Espresso, the author of investigative reports on organised crime in Rome.

Reporter from Striscia la notizia films drug-dealing – attacked five times in a month
Vittorio Brumotti and three members of his team have been attacked five times in one month whilst conducting an investigation into drug-dealing in various Italian cities. The attacks by the lookouts of the dealers and by the dealers themselves happened in Rome, Padua, Milan and Bologna between 31st October and the 2nd December. After the broadcasts, police have succeeded in arresting several dealers.

Reggio Emilia: “Clear off”. Journalist threatened twice in a few days
At the end of November the journalist Francesca Chilloni, a contributor of the dailies Reggiosera (online) and La Voce di Reggio received serious verbal threats. The first time, on the 24th whilst working at a murder site; the second on the 28th whilst reporting on arson. The anti-Mafia unit of the district is investigating both episodes.

Forza Nuova militants threaten la Repubblica and l’Espresso
On the 6th December in Rome about a dozen masked militants from Forza Nuova invaded the private area of the headquarters building of La Repubblica daily newspaper and the weekly l’Espresso, directing insults and threats at the two titles and their journalists who for months have been documenting with articles and investigations the “spread of Fascist episodes and intolerance in the country”.

The health commissioner of Calabria asks for one million euro damages from a journalist. The Tribunal refuses
On the 11th December, the Tribunal rejected the request for damages made by the Commissioner ad acta for the implementation of the health plan of the Calabria Region, Massimo Scura against the journalist Adriano Mollo, the author of articles published in Quotidiano del Sud related to the management of the funds of the health service of Calabria.

Aosta: He wrote: 2 clear snow out of 18000. Journalist insulted on Facebook
On the 19th December the journalist Alessandro Mano, contributor to the newspaper La Stampa has been attacked on Facebook with insults and accusations of amateurism for having reported that an initiative launched by the Facebook group “Sei di Aosta” had spectacularly failed. The journalist received the support of the journalists union and the regional branch of the journalist association.

Updates on cases previously reported by Observatory
Contempt by the Libero title? Belpietro acquitted

Football: Stadium ban for the hooligan who attacked the journalist Brenzini

Pignataro: Enzo Palmesano threatened – the sentence confirmed

The Procura prosecutes the man who threatened Rubano from Striscia

Monza: Sentence overturned. Former mayor pays legal expenses to l’Espresso

Other noteworthy news

Ossigeno Conference: Malta and the journalism which disturbs nobody

Legal expenses: Verna blesses the Ordine dei giornalisti/Tuscany agreement

No imprisonment for defamation: Grasso: it remains an essential reform

Looking for Liberty: the Ossigeno concert at the Casa del Jazz

Gentiloni: much more has to be done for the freedom of the press

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The following have collaborated on this monthly report: Dario Barà, Loredana Colace, Raffaella Della Morte, Matteo Finco.

This report has been enhanced by numerous voluntary contributions from collaborators who share the social objectives of Ossigeno. These contributions are added to the contributions paid by the funds envisaged by the European project of ECPMF. Substantial savings have been obtained thanks to services supplied free of charge by agencies and institutions to Ossigeno per l’Informazione.

ASP-MF (wt)

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