A contribute to cover the defence costs incurred in defending himself against libel charges in relation to the publication of articles on the city’s administrative activities
The Free Legal Aid Office of Ossigeno (see here), which works in collaboration with Media Defence, awarded a cash contribution to cover partially the legal costs of the journalist who recounted his story with this text written for Ossigeno
OSSIGENO November 26th 2021 – by Natale Salvo – I met Ossigeno per l’Informazione several years ago. I was sued in a civil case by the mayor of Erice (Trapani), my home town. This mayor, feeling damaged by an article published on my personal blog and shared on social media, had asked for exorbitant damage compensation of 200,000 euro. Ossigeno had discovered my story on the web and contacted me. Subsequently Ossigeno told the whole story on its website and had included my case amongst those of bloggers who were victims of unjustifiable threats and intimidation.
I have to say that that writ changed my life a lot. I fell into a deep depression. For a long time, I was no longer able to write articles on the activities of that administration. I separated from my wife.
Fortunately, at least the legal matter ended in my favour and the Municipality of Erice (and also the citizens represented by that mayor, in a sense), after seven long years, was sentenced to pay me 5,000 euro for legal fees.
That was a civil libel lawsuit. Instead, for the same story, a trusted collaborator of the same mayor sued me and so I also had to face a criminal case. In the court of the original jurisdiction I was sentenced to 80 days in prison! But then the Court of Appeal vindicated me. I was acquitted. But the legal costs I had incurred to defend myself, several thousand euro, this time remained at my expense. A heavy blow!
Also in this case, Ossigeno at that time highlighted the events on its website, shining a light of moral support that certainly is good for those who have been isolated and publicly branded as an alleged slanderer.
After a decade, the mayor of Erice, no longer being able under the law, to propose himself as a candidate for a further term in that municipality ran for the nearby provincial capital, Trapani, and was elected.
Even in this new capacity, this individual who does not accept criticism, because his ultimate goal is his image, sued me for defamation. And this time he didn’t just take it out on me, he denounced to the judiciary the three journalists of three different newspapers who wrote articles on the story of the sudden appointment as president of the municipal administration of a man trusted by him who shortly afterwards ended up in handcuffs accused of being part of a Mafia family.
This time Ossigeno, understanding the financial difficulties, activated its own legal aid service for me and as a consequence awarded me a monetary bonus to contribute to the expenses incurred for my defence by my lawyer.
I thank Ossigeno and I emphasize that Ossigeno’s activity does not stop there.
Its activity that I appreciate most is the commendable one of lobbying politicians so that the legislation is changed that condemns journalists (and bloggers) to live in fear if they choose not to be mere spokespersons for those currently powerful but instead that of watchdogs of democracy.
I hope that politicians will soon reform the current legislation on libel decriminalizing the offence and providing penalties for serial plaintiffs who make instrumental use of the law.