Ossigeno defends journalist sued for two articles on “Mafia Capitale”

She was denounced in 2015 by a priest, the legal representative of a co-operative in Novara investigated  for alleged links of one of its founders with the huge organised crime scandal in Rome

OSSIGENO 13th JUNE 2021 – The Oxygen Free Legal Aid  Office (see here) in collaboration with Media Defence has taken up the defence in court of the freelance journalist Vanessa Valvo who in 2015 was sued for criminal libel by a priest for two articles published by the weekly “L’Altomilanese”. Vanessa Valvo will have to appear before the judge of the Criminal Court of Biella on the 12th October 2021. She will be assisted by the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro and by his colleague Silvia Gelpi. Besides Vanessa Valvo, the chief editor of the newspaper, Ersilio Mattioni, has also been sued and will appear in court.

After examining the trial papers together with the legal team, Ossigeno believes that Vanessa Valvo acted correctly, writing the truth about matters of public interest. Her situation deserves the widest solidarity, attention and assistance, in the face of the publisher’s failure to indemnify the legal costs necessary to defend herself.

THE PUBLISHER PUBLISHES BUT DOES NOT ASSIST – The affair is also interesting in this respect. In fact, it re-proposes the wider issue of placing the duties of publishers towards the authors of published articles on a contractual and statutory level. Moreover due to the economic crisis that the publishing industry is experiencing, there are now few publishers in Italy who bear the legal costs and any compensation demanded from the author of an article, without prejudice to journalist’s right to contest  the publisher if he/she considers that the publisher  acted with wilfulness or bad faith. At present this responsibility is not envisaged by law or by employment contracts. The consequence is that many journalists (especially freelancers and low-income reporters), such as Vanessa Valvo, when accused of defamation for what they have published, face considerable expenses. Even if in many cases they are unjustly and spuriously accused at the end of the trial these expenses will have to be borne by them even in the event of acquittal.

THE BACKGROUND – On the 16th  and 30th January 2015 the weekly L’Altomilanese published two articles signed by Vanessa Valvo on the judicial investigations into a Social Cooperative in Novara, for alleged connections of one of its founders with companies involved in the “Mafia Capitale” investigation and on the passive attitude of the Municipality of Turbigo (in the province of Milan) towards the Cooperative after the concern raised by the investigation. 

Four months later, on the 4th April 2015, the priest, at the time the legal representative of the Cooperative, sued the journalist and the chief editor of the weekly L’Alto Milanese, deeming those articles offensive to the Cooperative.

THE ARTICLES – The journalist wrote that there had been no re-assessment by the Municipality of Turbigo, and criticized  it for having renewed its trust in the Cooperative despite the search ordered as part of the Rome investigation (Mafia Capitale) and for entrusting it with the contract for 2015 for the maintenance of public green areas. The opening  of the bid envelopes of the tenderers took place one day before the Special Operations Department of the Carabinieri searched the registered office in Novara.

OUR EVALUATION – According to Ossigeno, there is nothing to reproach the journalist Vanessa Valvo for , as the simple formal reference to the “Mafia Capitale” investigation at that time was certainly true and deserved to be published  according to the legitimate  exercise of the right to report  , considering the impact  that the Rome investigation had had in a small community and the fact that it involved the headquarters of a well-known local cooperative, a winner of public tenders and operating in the area on behalf of the municipal administration.

THE JOURNALIST – Vanessa Valvo released the following statement: I thank very much Ossigeno per l’Informazione and the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro who, from the first contacts, were always available to listen to me and immediately understood the complicated legal  dynamics that were intertwined with my work. Having a professional who specializes in information law at your side is an immense piece of good fortune for journalists who, today, find themselves increasingly being investigated, even if only for trying to define the facts in the light of the truth. Ossigeno per l’Informazione, in fact, is the only body in Italy ready to take a concrete stand on the side of press freedom and to do so by giving effective support to journalists who work on the front line so that public opinion is informed. Our rôle as informers of public opinion is often thankless. But thanks to Ossigeno, that rôle  is somehow rehabilitated, not only in an institutional form, but above all in a moral one. Thank you!

THE CRIMINAL TRIAL for defamation against Vanessa Valvo and the responsible chief editor  is in the trial phase before the Judge of the Criminal Court of Biella. The next hearing is set for October 12th  2021. 

ASP

(with the collaboration of Oreste Vighi)

Other news  on the activities  of the Oxygen Free Legal Aid  Office Read here

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