In Italy Ossigeno and Media Defence assist Leandro Salvia, a reporter acquitted of the defamation charges because charges was proved fake
OSSIGENO May 17, 2023 – In Sicily, the journalist Leandro Salvia, sued for criminal libel was acquitted of the accusations made against him by a mayoral candidate. But before seeing his innocence recognized, the reporter experienced a long period of anxiety, incurred legal costs and feared having to pay compensation of 100,000 euro. The trial was resolved in the journalist’s favour when the prosecutor found that the charges against him were false: he had been accused of criminal act he had not done.
Now the journalist is evaluating, together with Ossigeno per l’Informazione and Media Defence, the possibility of suing the person who unjustly accused him of libel knowing him to be innocent.
His story also lends itself to some considerations on the methods by which the judiciary can combat similar abuses of the judicial system.
THE TRIAL for libel was brought by a mayoral candidate in the municipal elections of San Cipirello in the Palermo metropolitan area who was not elected and had asked the journalist for one hundred thousand euro in damages, falsely accusing him of having written untruthfully about her.
THE PROSECUTING MAGISTRATE’S INVESTIGATIONS – In addition to expressing solidarity with this journalist, Ossigeno underlines that the conclusion of this trial showed that it arose out of a lawsuit containing allegations which the prosecutor, after conducting an investigation, ascertained that they were false and unfounded.
THE ADMISSIONS BEFORE THE PROSECUTING MAGISTRATE – During the trial, the plaintiff opposed the dismissal of the case proposed by the prosecutor, and asked to investigate the work assignments and political ideas of the journalist. Then in front of the prosecutor she admitted that at least one of the accusations she made against the journalist, the most detailed, was false: i.e., the accusation of his having been a political figure connected to the activity of the municipal administration of San Cipirello, an administration that two years earlier, in 2019, had been subject to statutory intervention due to mafia-type infiltrations.
BUT CAN THE MAGISTRACY BE TREATED LIKE THIS?
Let’s ask ourselves: in order to protect one’s image, can one deny the facts? Can newspapers and journalists be accused of non-existent crimes? Can it be done with impunity by devising false accusations with lawsuits and subpoenas sent to the judiciary?
WHAT IS SLANDER? – No, one cannot. Anyone who makes false accusations commits the offence of calumny which is punished by article 368 of the Italian Penal Code with imprisonment from two to six years.
WHEN CAN OFFICIALDOM ACT? – We think that in the specific case of the trial of Leandro Salvia, faced with the plaintiff’s admission of having falsely accused the journalist, the judge and the prosecutor could have officially challenged her for the offence of slander committed through the lawsuit.
WHAT IS A CRIMINAL LAWSUIT? – In fact, a lawsuit is a formal denunciation of an offence or a crime and when false accusations are made against someone by sending them to a public official, justice is damaged, the offence of slander or calumny is committed and the trial process is also abused because judicial proceedings are conducted exclusively for the aim of justice and not to permit someone to defend his or her personal interest in spite of the truth.
EVER INCREASING LAWSUITS – Every year in Italy about ten thousand new criminal lawsuits for libel are issued and nine out of ten end with the acquittal of the accused. The number of these trials is growing year on year.
HOW TO STOP THIS AVALANCHE – To stop the enormous proliferation of unfounded or specious libel suits, everyone, including Ossigeno, is urging the Italian Parliament to approve new laws and new rules to discourage such abuses.
THE COMATOSE RULES – But above all, Ossigeno asks the judiciary to systematically apply those rules (such as challenging the offence of calumny and the abuses of the trial process) which already exist for this purpose in Italian codes and are just waiting to be applied, whenever the facts and the trial procedures allow.