Legal aid. Ossigeno helps a reporter facing lawsuit compensation for 25 million €

The Free Legal Aid Office of Ossigeno (read more here) which works in collaboration with Media Defence see, has made a monetary contribution to cover the legal expenses

OSSIGENO June 16th 2021 – The journalists Angela Baglioni from L’Aquila (Abruzzo) is facing a libel damage lawsuit brought by a construction company that has requested compensation of 25 million euro. During the trial she lost the assistance from her publisher. The Free Legal Aid Office of Ossigeno (read more here) which works in collaboration with Media Defence see, has made a monetary contribution to her to cover partially the legal expenses. Angela Baglioni told her story with this text written for Ossigeno.

By Angela Baglioni – When I opened the bulky package that I had just picked up at the post office, I risked a heart attack. It was a subpoena for a claim for colossal damages which amounted to 25 million euro. I was being sued by a construction company that had been engaged in one of the many building sites of the post-earthquake reconstruction of L’Aquila. I, a modest editor and then a chief editor of the newspaper for which I worked, together with two other journalists and their respective publishers, were requested to pay that amount. I could never have assembled that amount even by taking on a mountain of debt. And why were they asking for those damages? For an article that I had published without any defamatory intent, simply by developing a story I got from a reliable source.

 

The “incriminating” article, which I had published in 2009 in the Abruzzo edition of the newspaper “Il Tempo”, raised some questions about the reconstruction of L’Aquila, the Abruzzo capital devastated by the earthquake of April 6th 2009. Writing that article had been an act of love for my city and for the profession I chose many years ago.

It’s been 12 years since that shocking day. The trial proceeded. I was assisted by my publisher. In the first instance I was ordered to pay a really worrying amount of compensation for non-pecuniary damage which I did not pay because I, together with the publishing company and the chief editor, immediately appealed and the judgment is currently pending.

In the meantime, my situation has worsened for various reasons. The publishing company of my newspaper decided to close the Abruzzo editorial office of the newspaper, the one where I worked. It fired me and all my colleagues. Then, last year, the publishing company was declared bankrupt. I thought I still had my back covered but I was wrong.

I discovered I didn’t have my back covered in March of this year, when I received an injunction to pay the penalty set by the court ruling. I got worried and, as usual, I immediately called the administrator, as I always did to discuss the various stages of the trial. The administrator told me that the publishing company, having gone bankrupt, was no longer able to honour the indemnity. Yet at the time of my dismissal it had given assurances that it would continue to provide indemnity to both me and my fellow journalists. The administrator has made it clear that the publisher is no longer interested in looking after the judgment. In short, from that moment on I had to get by on my own. It was another shock. I felt very isolated. What could I do? I started asking friends and acquaintances for help.

I knew Ossigeno per l’Informazione because I had met Alberto Spampinato during a training course in L’Aquila. It seemed natural to me to contact this Observatory and its legal aid office. I consider them a bulwark in defence of the freedom of us journalists to carry out our job. I asked for help and they listened to me. Therefore, I thank Alberto Spampinato, the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro and all the other Ossigeno activists for the precious support they are giving me. And also because they made me feel less alone. Feeling alone in circumstances like this can be devastating.

Angela Baglioni

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