Ossigeno Legal aid. Journalist sued by publisher was acquitted

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Fabrizio Dell’Orso was accused of criminal defamation for an article of which he was not the author, published on a blog

OSSIGENO 29th September 2023 – Ossigeno is pleased to announce the victory of its legal office (which operates in collaboration with Media Defence) in the criminal trial which saw the journalist Fabrizio Dell’Orso investigated, sued for the crime of defamation via the internet by the publisher Andrea Ceccherini.

Fabrizio Dell’Orso, defended by the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro, was acquitted despite the opposition to the dismissal request presented by Ceccherini against the reasoning of the public prosecutor. The investigating judge of Rome, Andrea Fanelli, rejected the opposition to dismissal and, on the 7th July 2023, issued a dismissal decree, dropping the charges against Fabrizio Dell’Orso.

First, in the request for dismissal, the public prosecutor observed that the website italian4journalist.wordpress.com is not a newspaper and therefore the complaint cannot be extended to its director: “Otherwise, an analogous extension of the discipline on the press would be implemented to defamation committed through websites in violation of the art. 1 of the penal code”.

In addition  Fabrizio dell’Orso declared, during the investigations, that he had worked with the site, without having any formal role, together with a hundred other journalists and that since 2013 he had stopped dealing with it. But the central aspect was that Dell’Orso was not the author of the article disputed  by Andrea Ceccherini and that he was not able to indicate the name of the author of the article referred to in the lawsuit.

The text in question essentially reproduced, in English, the content of an investigative article, published on the 16th  March 2018 in the weekly “lI Venerdi di Repubblica”, written  by the journalist Claudio Gatti, entitled “But who is that Lord close to Andrea Ceccherini”, having as its subject  Ceccherini and his professional activity within the “Permanent Observatory of Young Publishers”.

The author commented negatively on the results of the “Permanent Observatry of young Publishers”‘s activity and pointed out that the “Permanent Observatory of Young Publishers” was founded in 2001 with the aim of promoting the reading of newspapers by young people and students in schools, high schools and universities. But that after 18 years of activity it had not achieved this objective. The ISTAT reading index, in fact, indicated the percentage of young readers of Italian newspapers dropped dramatically from 49.4% to 24.4%.

”The reality is that all the independent surveys, from those of ISTAT the Italian Statistic Institute) to those of Audipress or the Federation of Publishers, indicate – Claudio Gatti wrote in the original piece – that, in the 18 years of activity of the Observatory, the decline in the reading rate among young people has seen a sensational acceleration. While between the mid-eighties and 2000 the percentage of readers who browsed a newspaper at least once a week remained substantially stable, starting from 2001, the year Ceccherini’s program was launched, an unconstrained  decline began. Among 15-17 year olds the rate fell from 49.4 per cent to 24.4 per cent. Among 20-24 year olds it dropped from 66.1 to 35.6 and between 25 and 34 year olds the percentage went from 67 to 41.5 per cent.”

In 2018, Claudio Gatti’s investigation was picked up and re-launched by other media. Pier Luca Santoro dealt with it on DatamediaHub, la Repubblica and Stefano Liviadotti on L’Espresso. Ceccherini reacted to all these publications by filing various civil and criminal lawsuits against those who had summarized, albeit  faithfully, Gatti’s investigation.

From what Ossigeno understands, to date all the lawsuits brought by Ceccherini to protect his reputation have seen him lose. In particular, on the 1st March 2023 the Court of Florence condemned the publisher Andrea Ceccherini and the Osservatorio Permanente Giovani Editori (of which he is president and legal representative) for having abused the legal  process in a lawsuit for compensation for damages for libel  pursued  against the digital media company GEDI and the journalists involved.

Fabrizio Dell’Orso’s request for legal aid aroused the interest of Ossigeno both for the vagueness of the accusations and for their contestation of a content of public interest which contained reasoned  criticism, based on Istat data, and written  with fitting language; criticisms that would have deserved not a lawsuit, but a request for rectification or the request of the right to reply. These requests, as far as Ossigeno is aware, have not taken place. By helping a journalist defend himself in court against such accusations, Ossigeno defends the prerogative of every journalist to respond only to their personal responsibilities and to freely exercise the right to information.

Oreste Vighi

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