Lawsuite against 16 journalists filed: they did not defame head of investigation department

The reporters had defended the suspect’s presumption of innocence by saying a video released by the Carabinieri was not showing his van but another one

OSSIGENO 11th March 2022 – After six years of investigations, the investigating judge Fabrizio Filice of the Court of Milan on the 7th October 2021 dismissed the libel suit filed by the former head of the Scientific Investigations Department of the Carabinieri (RIS) of Parma Giampietro Lago against 16 journalists: Luca Telese, Maurizio Belpietro, Paolo Liguori, Giovanni Minoli, Nicola Porro, Luca Raimondi, Peter Gomez, Cesare Giuzzi, Edoardo Montolli, Umberto Brindani, Alessandro Barbano, Gioele Urso, Giorgio Mulé, Andrea Paolo Aquarone, Ignazio Stagno and Alessandro Sallusti.

The last three had already been exempted from the lawsuit. The journalists had criticized a video provided to television by the Carabinieri before the trial of Massimo Bossetti, the man accused and subsequently convicted of the murder of Yara Gambirasio, the 13-year-old from Brembate di Sopra in the province of Bergamo who disappeared on November 26th 2010 and was found dead 2 months later.

THE FACTS – The video that was the subject of the lawsuit showed a white van that went around the girl’s gym at times consistent with her disappearance, which gave rise to the misunderstanding that the vehicle was that of Massimo Bossetti. In 2015 it was discovered that the news programme had not specified that it was not the suspect’s van, but a montage of frames from different sources to verify the compatibility between a van in the “frames” and the one seized from Massimo Bossetti. The criticism from the media of the work of the RIS in Parma did not please its former boss who issued journalists with a hail of lawsuits.

THE JUDGMENT – The investigating judge Fabrizio Filice accepted the prosecutor’s request for dismissal and noted that “the news and journalistic criticism … related to an objectively verifiable fact, of undoubted public interest and not the result of invention or simulation”. Furthermore, “the media diffusion” of that video, “whose purpose was admittedly not evidential … but communicative”, in fact infringed “the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence of the accused which … must protect the suspects from … overexposure to present them deliberately … as guilty before the definitive trial process “.

THE JOURNALISTS – Among the accused journalists was Cesare Giuzzi of ‘Corriere della Sera’, with whom Ossigeno (read here) has recently spoken.

“In November 2015, when it turned out that the RIS video was not accurate, Luca Telese on ‘Libero’ called it” fake “and” cartomancy “(see here). It was followed in waves by newspapers and television – the journalist told Ossigeno – I had a marginal role, as the prosecutor also underlined. I was sued for a contribution on the Facebook page of the Group of Lombardy Reporters, of which I was president.
The open letter to the Bergamo prosecutor made the rounds of social media and was taken up by other newspapers. I maintained in both my trade union role and from an ethical point of view, that it was right to say that the video was not proof and that there had been a problem with the reliability of the institutional sources.
The truth is that in the relationship with investigators and the judiciary a common line must be shared, in mutual respect and in the guarantee over the material that is provided to the third party, i.e., the journalistic one, must remain third party. This sentence recognized the importance of legal news which must always respect the presumption of innocence. It’s not a question of censorship, but only one of providing reliable information”.

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