Journalist falsely accused a colleague. Sentenced 7 years later

Six months inprisonment for libel of Salvo Benanti who in 2014 asked Franco Oddo to return the Mario Francese Prize for Journalism.

OSSIGENO March 31, 2022 – Eight years after the event a judge ruled that one of the most outrageous journalistic attacks launched against the periodical La Civetta di Minerva and its editor was based on false accusations after this small but contentious newspaper, had in 2010, uncovered with a scoop a series of irregularities that revolved around the Public Prosecutor of Syracuse, Italy and some prominent criminal lawyers including the then little-known lawyer Piero Amara.

The news, made known only now by “La Civetta” is the following. On April 13th 2021 the Court of Syracuse sentenced the journalist Salvo Benanti to a suspended sentence of six months in prison for having defamed the journalist Franco Oddo, whilst the latter was editor of “La Civetta” and had led the investigation “Poisons in Syracuse”

On February 23rd 2014, Franco Benanti, editor-in-chief of the Siracusan periodical “I Fatti della Domenica”, had published on its front page, a thundering article in which he asked Franco Oddo and the editors of “La Civetta” to return the award dedicated to memory of the journalist Mario Francese, which had been assigned to them for the journalistic investigation on “Poisons in Syracuse”. The article argued that they publicly ashamed should have done so and apologized because, a few days earlier, three magistrates involved in that scandal had been acquitted.

In the article’s argument there had been “knowingly” a misunderstanding as the acquittal of the magistrates had been for other offences. Franco Oddo had filed a lawsuit and “La Civetta” had filed a civil action. The sentence had clarified the facts.

THE JUDGE’S REASONING  In explaining his ruling, the judge wrote that the charge addressed to the offended person (Franco Oddo) –was  that of having to apologize to the magistrates, following the acquittal sentence no. 59/2014 made by the General Prosecutor at the Court of Messina, and also to have to return the prize with a some  shame. But the investigations of the newspaper “La Civetta” did not deal with the events for which the magistrates in question were tired but with the ‘Poisons in Syracuse’ affair which had led the jury of the Francese Prize to award the recognition. Contrary to the truth, in essence this sentence in the article by Salvo Benanti  was used knowingly to damage the journalistic image of the offended person, Franco Oddo, so that these statements overall have an defamatory character “.

“The same is true – continues the judge – for the sentence ‘Behind La Civetta certainly easily identifiable minds and groups very powerful and unscrupulous’, which clearly has a highly defamatory value, since the accusation made by ‘I Fatti della Domenica’ is ignominious damaging the honour and dignity of the journalist.

Benanti’s attitude and in particular the accusations referred to above, go beyond the right to report or criticism, constitutionally guaranteed, and are substantiated in a direct accusation against Oddo, suggesting that his work had been in some way piloted or coordinated, beyond what was his professional profile as a qualified journalist, so that the prosecution was fully confirmed in the trial process “.

COMMENT – Ossigeno per l’Informazione expresses satisfaction with this clarification at the judicial level which restores the deserved reputation to Franco Oddo and his newspaper. It is painful to observe that it took a seven year trial, that it was necessary to employ the machinery of justice and of talented defence counsel to obtain a clarification that could have been obtained in a rapid way, between the parties, simply by recognizing the factual truth and publicly acknowledging it. This is always the main route that Ossigeno never tires of pointing out. As for the prison sentence, Ossigeno hopes that it will be converted into a fine, also as a result of the ruling of the Constitutional Court which, two months after this sentence, severely restricted the applicability of imprisonment for this offence. Ossigeno hopes that the Italian Parliament will abolish it completely, because imprisonment is a disproportionate penalty. Ossigeno also continues to encourage all parties in dispute over libel to resolve disputes between themselves, without resorting to judges, through  the publication of clarifications, corrections and public apologies and, where there are documented and proven damages, with due compensation . Prompt restoration of one’s reputation is the greatest compensation one can get.


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