Libel. € 95 thousand in damages from “Il Fatto Quotidiano” to Tiziano Renzi

The court sentence for defamation for three articles. The alarm of the editor Travaglio: this puts the life of the newspaper at risk 

The journalist Marco Travaglio, chief editor of Il Fatto Quotodiano, the journalist Gaia Scacciavillani and the editor of the newspaper were convicted for libel by the civil court of Florence and ordered to pay 95 thousand euros as damages to Tiziano Renzi (the father of the former Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi), and to publish the sentence both on the paper and on the online edition of the publication.

Tiziano Renzi had asked for 300 thousand euros in compensation for the content of six articles published between 2015 and 2016 relating to his business and investigations into him for bankruptcy. The accusation was set aside. The judge considered defamatory three articles for each of which Il Fatto Quotidiano will have to pay compensation of 30 thousand euro, plus 5 thousand euro of legal costs.

Travaglio was convicted for writing two editorials, on December 24th 2015 and January 16th 2016: the first, titled “I Babboccioni” , describing the investigation under way in Genoa into the Chil Post, an advertising and newspaper distribution company. Travaglio had used the term “fa bancarotta” (going bankrupt) in the first article. In the second, entitled “Hasta la lista”, it is alleged that Tiziano Renzi had been approached for “affarucci” (small deals) by Valentino Mureddu, who, it is alleged, was mentioned in the P3 investigation into masonic associations.

The judge also ruled that the title of an article signed by Gaia Scacciavillani and published in the online edition of the newspaper on January 9th , 2016 was defamatory. “Bank Etruria, father Renzi and Rosi. The cooperative of the business is now in the sights of the prosecutors” This was the title of the article in which Scacciavillani described the investigations into the Castelnuovese cooperative, which had just been searched and was headed by the former president of Banca Etruria Lorenzo Rosi, in business with Luigi Dagostino, who in turn was in business with Renzi senior who was not being investigated.

The news of the ruling was made public by Matteo Renzi on his Twitter profile on October 22nd , 2018, commenting: “Today the first conviction … it is just the beginning: time is a gentleman”. Then, the former prime minister added on his Facebook profile: “Nothing can compensate for the huge amount of mud thrown at my family, my father, his health. An unprecedented hate campaign.  But someone starts paying at least the damages”.

In the editorial published on October 23rd (read here) the chief editor of Il Fatto Quotidiano announced that he will appeal confident of being acquitted in the second degree trial. In addition, he appealed to readers to support the newspaper’s finances also threatened by another conviction for libel (not yet definitive) to pay 150 thousand euro.

“When a court rules that you are wrong and you know that you’re right – Marco Travaglio wrote – you contest the ruling and hope that the appeal judges will recognize that you are right. This is how we have always behaved, without making too much fuss. Now, however, the ruling of the Civil Court of Florence – that blamesIl Fatto Quotidiano (i.e. the undersigned and a good colleague), ordering us to pay the disproportionate compensation of € 95 thousand to Tiziano Renzi and creating a precedent that puts at risk the survival of our newspaper – forces us to immediately turn to you readers “, wrote the editor of Il Fatto Quotidiano.

This is how Travaglio commented in his article addressed to the readers of his newspaper : “Either the political class finally puts in place a serious reform of defamation in print, giving value to corrections and denials, imposing penalties against reckless disputes, removing the jurisdiction of the courts from the areas where the complainants reside, and above all making a distinction between false facts and insults (which, without any obvious corrections or excuses, must be sanctioned) and critical opinions and satirical remarks (which must always be legitimate) – or we stop writing about real events and criticizing those who deserve it. But in this case, the very reason of our profession would fail , at least as we understand it “.

Journalists Peter Gomez and Giordano Cardone who were also involved in the same libel case for other articles published in the online edition have been acquitted. In this case the father of the former prime minister was ordered to pay the legal costs.

RDM (wt)

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