Legal defence. Ossigeno is assisting “Radio Radicale”’s correspondent in Turkey

by Luciana Borsatti – Mariano Giustino’s Facebook profile has been obscured and blocked since April 16th 2020. Facebook has given no explanation. He has resorted to legal action at the Court of Rome to reopen it

Ossigeno per l’Informazione has decided to provide legal assistance to Mariano Giustino, Radio Radicale’s correspondent in Turkey, in a lawsuit that he has decided to bring against Facebook for having obscured his profile without warning, without a clear reason and without providing answers for weeks to his requests for restoration and explanation.

Mariano Giustino is an Italian citizen, living in Ankara and has been a correspondent for Radio Radicale for ten years. His Facebook account which is registered in Italy was blacked out on April 16th  2020 and has never been reopened. The correspondent for Radio Radicale believes, therefore, that he is the victim of  unacceptable censorship.

THE FACTS – Shortly after the publication of a post, he received the following unsigned message from Facebook: “If we continue to find that your account does not comply with our Community Standards, it will remain disabled. We always pay close attention to the safety of people on Facebook, so until then you cannot use your account. “

With the post published just before this message, the correspondent of Radio Radicale had re-launched the news of the release of a member of a Turkish crime syndicate, linked to the far-right ultranationalist political party, Grey Wolves, stressing that his release was due to a new Turkish law on early release from prison which, Mariano Giustino wrote, “gives reductions to ninety thousand prisoners, but not for journalists, opposition politicians and human rights activists”.

NO ANSWER – On re-reading that post, various hypotheses can be made about the reason for disabling the account and all could be valid since Facebook did not provide any justification despite Mariano Giustino making numerous requests for explanations to Facebook. The correspondent from Turkey also made an appeal to Facebook’s management, but this too went unanswered.

THE LAWSUIT – After almost a month had passed and considering himself the victim of an unjust and discriminatory measure that damages him  and his journalism activity, Mariano Giustino, citing  respect for the right of expression, decided to turn to the judiciary, by initiating a lawsuit against the social networking giant.

WHY OSSIGENO? – In this lawsuit Mariano Giustino is supported and assisted by the free legal aid office of Ossigeno per l’Informazione, who considers the claim of the right of expression well-founded and regards this case as strategically important to clarify, in the interest of both the correspondent of Radio Radicale and every Facebook user, how the rights of the users of the “Community” are guaranteed. And in particular to reaffirm, at a legal level, that the right of expression and information and other fundamental principles that apply in democratic society, enshrined in laws and treaties, cannot be administered privately by the managers of social networks, without respecting the law and the right, in an arbitrary way, without transparency, with unjustified interventions and without the opposition of users who are censored.

In this legal case, Ossigeno will operate with the support of the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI). “The first step – says the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro, who coordinates the Legal Aid Office of Ossigeno and will follow the case with the lawyer Flavio Improta – will be the presentation of an urgent appeal to the Civil Court of Rome, pursuant to Article 700 of the Code of Civil Procedure, to obtain the immediate reinstatement of the account “.

In addition to the question of the right to freedom of expression, the case also raises that of intellectual property. “Serious doubts remain about Facebook’s use of the content uploaded and covered by copyright – observes the lawyer Improta -… It is not clear if the content possibly deleted from the social network remains, or not, still available to the network. In essence an author who suffers the closure of his account completely loses control over the actual diffusion of the works subsequently  uploaded “.

THE APPEAL TO ZUCKERBERG – The decision to turn to the Italian judiciary was announced by Mariano Giustino himself, in a short video published on his Twitter profile directly addressed to Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg, accusing Zuckerberg of having violated his “fundamental human right” to freedom of expression, in addition to violating his right to freely exercise his profession as a journalist, and of having caused these violations disabling his account “without notice and without any justification”. “I am tired of your arrogance and your domineering silence” – says Mariano Giustino in the video -. “For 26 days I have been a victim of your censorship”. “You gagged me”” – he adds -. “Now the word goes to the judiciary”.

The Radio Radicale correspondent adds that “Facebook” behaves like a clandestine organization that has obscure rules harmful to these fundamental human rights. I asked Zuckerberg for the courtesy of an answer but he did not respond. He can afford to censor aware of his own total impunity. I hope to receive – he continues – due support from the Italian institutions and government. At the moment most of the Italian press is not attentive to this type of censorship and in particular to me who as an Italian journalist for over ten years in Turkey comments on everything that happens without self-censorship “.

THE LAST POST – This is the full text of his latest post, April 16th.

“#Prisons #Turkey. A member of the criminal underworld, linked to the Grey Wolves, Alaattin Çakıcı was released during the night thanks to the law on early release from prison . The law allows a reduction of the sentence for ninety thousand prisoners, but not for journalists, opposition politicians and human rights activists @RadioRadicale “. In fact, these latter groups have been excluded from the recent law that reduces the sentences of ninety thousand prisoners to limit contagions from Covid-19.

Soon after, he received this communication from Facebook. “We have received your information. If we continue to find that your account does not meet our community standards, it will remain disabled. We always pay close attention to the safety of people on Facebook, so until then you cannot use your account “.

Any attempt to receive further explanation, in particular of which Community standard would have been violated, proved useless.

WHAT DOES HE THINK ABOUT IT? “My account has disappeared and I am no longer able to use it – Giustino wrote in an email sent to Facebook -. This is a particularly serious problem for me because it limits my job “as a correspondent for Radio Radicale from Turkey and limits my freedom to inform “.

The reporter insists  that the topic had already been covered, “and in a very similar form – he specifies – by many Turkish media on Facebook, including the mainstream media, several hours before the publication of my post.”

COUNTRY YOU GO .. – How then would you have violated the “standard”, we ask? “I am inclined to believe the following: I believe that Facebook – explains Mariano Giustino to Ossigeno – acts differently in the various countries, according to their jurisdiction and system of government’. For example, in Sweden, Germany or Italy it behaves in one way, in Turkey or China in another way, adapting to the respect for human rights and freedom of expression that exists in each country. In Turkey, where freedom of expression is more threatened than in other countries, it thus conforms to Turkish laws. And in particular to the anti-terrorism law which has very wide coverage  and according to which any expression can be framed as a threat to national security or instigation to rebellion. In particular, the law envisages that an accusation of support for a terrorist organization even without being part of it. Anyone can therefore be indicted for the simple fact of having expressed opinions that can be interpreted in that light. It is no coincidence that Turkey is the country with the most journalists and intellectuals in prison. According to the Turkish portal Bianet, there are now 121 journalists detained, while there are over 2000 under investigation but perhaps many more “.

SENSITIVE ISSUES – It is not easy to produce independent news in Erdogan’s Turkey. The Italian correspondent  says he has been “heavily attacked” on social networks also by bots and trolls, and by “people who enjoy total impunity knowing that there is no law to stop them”.

BIG BROTHER – As for his controversy with Facebook, Mariano Giustino is clear that he is determined to go all the way.  “I want a written answer, I – he concludes – have the right to know”. “Even though Facebook is a private community, it cannot behave like a” Big Brother “which pursues its legitimate economic interests whilst violating the international conventions on human rights and the fundamental principles that underlie all civil coexistence,” he wrote of recent in an intervention on Article 21.

LB/wt

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