Libel. Manager asks for € 1 million damages. The judge says no
OSSIGENO 20th October 2010 – By Raffaella Della Morte – After 4 years, the Court rejected the request of a company manager who had sued journalists and publisher. He will have to pay € 4,400 in legal costs.
One million euros: this is the figure that Giancarlo Guarrera, former general manager of Airgest, the company that manages Trapani Airport, had demanded in 2016, from the journalist Nicola Baldarotta, founder and chief editor of the free newspaper Il Locale News , his collaborator Luca Sciacchitano, and from the publishing company Operatori communication and information srl.
But the judge of the Civil Court of Trapani, Daniela Galazzi, on the 31st August 2020, rejected the extreme request considering it unfounded and sentenced Guarrera to pay 4 thousand 400 euros in court costs, plus overheads.
The entrepreneur considered himself defamed for an article published on November 8th 2016 in the satirical column “The devil’s advocate”, written by Luca Sciacchitano, in which he recounted with irony the increase in Guarrera’s salary, which had gone up from 7,500 euros a month to thirteen thousand euros, despite the notorious economic difficulties faced by the Trapani-Birgi Vincenzo Florio Airport. The story had been picked up by several local newspapers.
“One story more than all – reads the article in Il Locale News – symbolizes this Trapani-based disaster: the salary increase of Giancarlo Guarrera. A slap in the face that the area did not deserve and will hardly forget. The general manager does not pay for his “miserable” 7,500 euros a month. He discovered that the cost of sandwiches has recently increased and therefore, armed with timely common sense, he has also strengthened his pay check to 13,000 euros a month. After all, Airgest does not have 15 million euro of debt. Ryanair does not threaten to leave at all. And Guarrera’s commendable results are there for all to see”.
Four years later the judge of the Court of Trapani closed the case stating that the journalists did not libel Giancarlo Guarrera but correctly exercised the right of criticism. The ruling specifies that Guarrera has not provided any evidence of the falsity of the disputed news story; news that related to the operation of the airport and therefore of “great interest for the whole area and its citizens, as not only the life of the companies connected to the airport, but also all related activities related to tourism depend on it”.
COMMENTS – Nicola Baldarotta said he was satisfied and told Ossigeno that he never wanted to “give in to a settlement” for the remission of the summons, because “he was certain he had done his job correctly”.
Assostampa Sicilia and Valerio Vartolo, the defence counsel of Il Locale News, also expressed their satisfaction. Vartolo commented that “The pronouncement of the Court of Trapani is important because it establishes the principle that the right to criticize is strengthened in proportion to the renown of the person being discussed and the public interest of the matter under discussion. In addition, the sentence affirms that the tone used can also be remarkably “disputatious” without this meaning that the criterion of moderate expression is not met. Ultimately, it is a sentence that follows in a very marked way the orientation of the ECHR “.
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