The liquidation of the publisher has left the former editors alone to face lawsuits in court proceedings for defamation brought 12-13 years ago.
This year Ossigeno per l’Informazione decided to allocate some of the funds at its disposal for free legal defence assistance in court to some former journalists of l’Unità who, a few years ago, suddenly found themselves without the protection of the publisher. How this situation was arrived at has already been described in another article (read here) which traced the events that led to the crisis and then the cessation of the publications of the by now historic publication founded by Antonio Gramsci. The fact is that, despite the publisher having been liquidated, some journalists, 12 years after the publication of their articles, are still on trial for defamation in print.
The journalists sector, overall, has underestimated and culpably ignored, from the beginning, the latent danger inherent in carrying out the journalist profession, as if this did not concern it. To understand how the world of information cannot really defend its own prerogatives and rights, just think of the category of lawyers, which has undertaken initiatives of civil action for the reform of criminal justice, especially on the subject of the statute of limitations. A crucial issue, because a state that is unable to prosecute a citizen over seven and a half years, or even twice that, should have a duty to intervene on the real causes of the problem. The right to a statute of limitations is a constitutional matter deriving from Article 111 of the Italian Constitution, which provides for the right of the citizen to a fair trial. And a trial cannot be just if it does not have a reasonable duration. Everyone has the right not to be interminably accused for an event recollection of which has practically been lost and for which the social impact is now non-existent.
In the world of journalism, however, the greatest threat is represented by isolation. Once upon a time the figure of the journalist was immediately associated with a solid and protective context: his newspaper, his editorial line, his chief editor.
The journalist knew that whatever happened, he would not be left alone.
With the story of l’Unità, this vision of the strong journalist, armed with rights and equipped with resources seems to have come to an end. But over the case of that historic publication the world of information does not seem to have held strikes, conferences, reflections, demonstrations, protests. In 2015 when the situation exploded, in particular when the first foreclosures of the journalists’ assets began, the only ones to take up the story were Ossigeno and a small group of journalists directly affected. Even the party of reference has not moved a finger to save l’Unità and its editors. And in all probability it had no interest in intervening.
Today, after a few years, we can contribute to the legal defence costs in the trial of some journalists, helping them to bear the costs to defend themselves. In the case of Enrico Fierro, former journalist of l’Unità , our intervention appears even obligatory because he was acquitted at the initial trial of the accusation of having defamed an influential politician. Now he is alone and without the publisher, but he must still defend himself on appeal. And if the court were to overturn the outcome of the first trial, Fierro would have to bear the costs and compensation for damages with his own assets and personal resources.
L’Unità – also for the historical-political importance of the newspaper – is a sensational case. But the stories of “orphans” of legal protection, left alone in front of the machinery of justice are numerous and Ossigeno tries to document and publicise them. There is a choice that the institutions of the journalism sector can no longer avoid and that is to confront the publishers so that budget provisions are set aside to cover in full the judicial misadventures of journalists and collaborators.