Massimiliano Scagliarini (Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno) and Giuliano Foschini (La Repubblica Bari) had been sued by a university professor for three articles in which they criticized the assignment of professorships
On the 24th January 2020, the Bari court dismissed a libel lawsuit against the journalists Massimiliano Scagliarini and Giuliano Foschini, respectively editors of La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno and La Repubblica, and against Giuseppe de Tommaso and Ezio Mauro, who as chief editors responsible of the two newspapers were accused of failure to check.
The journalists were sued on the 7th November 2014 by the former director of the Law department of the University of Bari, Professor Massimo De Rienzo. The professor disputed the content of three articles, two published by the Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, on the 29th October and the 1st November 2014, written by Scagliarini, and one published in the Bari edition of the La Repubblica newspaper on the 30th October 2014, written by Foschini.
In these articles, the journalists criticized the management of the University of Bari, regarding the assignment of professorships and spoke of an alleged favouritism of relatives (called “parentopoli”) at the University, where married couples taught. Specifically, the journalists reported on the conduct of a competition for hiring associate professors and the risk of recruiting family members, in contrast with the University’s ethical code and the law.
The disputed articles were part of a broader journalistic investigation into the assignment of professorships at the University. The reporters had described incidents that concerned not only Prof. Di Rienzo and his wife Francesca Vessia, but also other couples.
In 2017, the Court, in fact, had already dismissed the lawsuit filed by two other professors of the University of Bari, against Scagliarini and the then editor of the newspaper Giuseppe De Tommaso. Those academics had accused the journalists of libel in relation to the same articles disputed by Professor Di Rienzo.
Ossigeno had already been involved with the matter.
Also for Professor Di Rienzo’s lawsuit, the judge has now established that those articles respect the limits of the right to criticise and that, although the text contains some inaccuracies, they do not alter “the meaning of the reporting”. Furthermore, the judge stressed that Professor Vessia and not her husband should have complained about the libel offence. The prosecutor had already proposed dismissing the case but Professor Di Rienzo had opposed it. Scagliarini was defended by the lawyer Nino Castellaneta from the Bari pool of lawyers.