Ossigeno gratuity for legal expenses to journalists of Potenza

A contribution to the legal costs incurred to defend themselves in court against a libel lawsuit by an entrepreneur in the wind energy sector

The Free Legal Aid Office of Ossigeno (see here) which works in collaboration with Media Defence, has awarded a cash contribution to cover legal expenses to the journalists of Basilicata24, who have written this account of the episode for Ossigeno

OSSIGENO November 4th  2021 – By Giusi Cavallo and Michele Finizio – We thank the president of Ossigeno per l’Informazione  Alberto Spampinato, the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro and all the staff of the Observatory for standing by us and for having  awarded us a gratuity to partially cover the legal expenses we incurred defending ourselves against the lawsuit initiated by a powerful entrepreneur from Basilicata, a businessman in the wind power sector, president also of Potenza Calcio srl football team, publisher of a newspaper as well as owner of a TV station.

There is another trial involving the same person for the same events linked to our articles relating to a long investigation into unregulated wind power generation in Basilicata.

In the specific case it was an article in Basilicata24 which highlighted the risk of infiltration of organised crime in the renewable energy sector in Basilicata; infiltrations that the anti-mafia directorate of Potenza subsequently found in some investigations.

Such mafia infiltrations were discussed in general but they were in no way directly associated with the organisations headed by the plaintiff. For this reason we believe we have suffered a specious lawsuit which has had the sole result of forcing us into a costly, stressful and above all unnecessary legal defence, because, as is said in these cases, the article defended itself.

The lawsuit for defamation for which we went to trial ended with the inadmissibility of the plaintiff’s opposition to its being dismissed. The magistrate had already dismissed the case but the plaintiff had opposed it.

The Judge of the Court of Potenza, Antonello Amodeo, rejecting the opposition to the case’s dismissal wrote as follows in the judgement: “investigative journalism is attributed broad legal protection”. Apart from the reasons on this case’s own merits, in detail the judge writes: … the Supreme Court, in the matter of defamation and journalism “recognizes broad legal protection to investigative journalism, which implies a less  rigorous appreciation of the truthfulness of the news and values ​​the respect for  the ethical duties of honesty  and good faith together with the greatest possible accuracy in the search for sources (…) According to this Court, revelatory journalism is protected by the constitutional principle of the right to free expression of thought in contexts in which there is a public interest in the subject  of the investigative journalism and the right of society  to be informed not only on news stories but also on particularly important social issues pertaining to freedom, safety and health and other rights of general interest. In this perspective, the journalist who conducts his activity by reporting suspicions of offences is not offending when such suspicions, according to a case-by-case assessment reserved to the trial judge, are objectively not totally absurd but are expressed in a reasoned way based on objective and relevant factors”.

Giusi Cavallo and Michele Finizio

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