The journalist had been sued by Gianni Zonin and Giuseppe Zigliotto for two articles in 2017 on the Banca Popolare di Vicenza (BPV) bankruptcy – The comment of Ossigeno
On July 12th 2019, the general magistrate of the Vicenza court sentenced journalist Giovanni Coviello, chief editor of VicenzaPiù, for libel. The sentence imposed on Coviello is eight months imprisonment plus the payment of two thousand five hundred euros to each plaintiff.
The sentence was announced by Coviello himself in an article published on Vicenzapiù. (read here) Meanwhile, pending the explanations for the sentence, the journalist announced that he had already instructed his lawyer to appeal against it.
Coviello had been sued by Gianni Zonin, former president of Banca Popolare di Vicenza, and Giuseppe Zigliotto, a former adviser, for two of his articles published in 2017. The texts quoted hypotheses put forward by the Guardia di Finanza (Financial police) of Vicenza – in the context of the investigation into the collapse of Banca Popolare di Vicenza – according to which the two plaintiffs would have expropriated in a dubious way valuable assets from the Roi Foundation.
The comment of Ossigeno
The director of Ossigeno, Alberto Spampinato declared that the condemnation of Giovanni Coviello to eight months in prison for libel – is certainly unjust and disproportionate and has a chilling and intimidating effect on the entire profession of journalists. It is true that the law allows for sentences of this type. But it is also true that in the last legislature, as in the previous ones, the Italian Parliament, driven by repeated calls from international institutions that underline the deleterious effect on those who collect and disseminate information of public interest, discussed at length but unsuccessfully a law to abolish the penalty of imprisonment for libel which would have left the courts with the possibility of inflicting only a fine. The two branches of Parliament had agreed unanimously this single point, but not on the overall text of the law which therefore did not come into force. Furthermore, it is true that these custodial sentences usually do not stand up if they are appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. Ossigeno, therefore, hopes that on appeal the sentence can be changed and that Giovanni Coviello can be acquitted recognizing the legitimate exercise of the right of criticism and to publish news on a matter of great public interest.