For legal fees incurred in defending himself against a libel suit in connection with the publication of a book about wolves
OSSIGENO OCTOBER 28th 2022 – The Free Legal Aid Office of Ossigeno (see here) which operates in collaboration with Media Defence, has granted a cash contribution to cover legal expenses to the writer and journalist Matteo Antonio Rubino who recounted his experience in the following text written for OSSIGENO
Matteo Antonio Rubino – I thank Ossigeno per l’Informazione and its Free Legal Aid Office for helping me to bear the costs of legal assistance that I had to incur to defend myself against an unjustified lawsuit for libel. I still had to bear the legal costs even though I was acquitted for the lack of any evidence of libel.
Ossigeno has already taken up my case (read here) regarding it as an example of the financial risks to which anyone who publishes something is exposed in Italy, even by those who respect the rules and acknowledged by a judge.
In summary, I wrote a book, entitled “Osso la lupa – Men and wolves in the Alps”, published by Editoriale Marelli of Como, also available on Amazon Kindle. In this novel for children I recount the adventurous natural return of the wolf to the Alps. The book is sponsored by WWF Italy and by the association “Io non ho paura del lupo” (“I’m not afraid of the wolf”).
I addressed a topic that is currently very controversial. I realized this in August 2021, on the occasion of a book presentation in Alpe Devero in the Comune of Braceno, where I was greeted by a group of protesters who violently challenged the presentation and the spirit of the story. The judiciary investigated the incident, as – on that occasion I was made the object of armed threats by some demonstrators who did not accept my proposal to sit down to talk peacefully during the presentation of the book.
Obviously I was a little traumatized by the incident. But I bounced back , continuing to promote my book. Since then there have been no incidents on any occasion when the book has been presented to the public.
Subsequently, however, a councillor of the Lega political party from Val d’Ossola, a certain Alberto Preioni, sued me because he thought that one of the purely imaginary characters in my story referred to him. It is an imaginary character, invented by me: a politician who cuts a poor figure in the story.
As soon as I heard that Mr Preioni had taken offence I immediately contacted him to apologize. I also took care to take all the copies of the book off the market at my expense and to change the name of the aforementioned character in order to exclude any possible confusion. Despite this, he still instructed his lawyer and sued me.
The proceedings took place at the Court of Como where I reside. It lasted about a year. The Public Prosecutor immediately proposed the case’s dismissal as there was no case to answer. Mr Preioni’s lawyer filed an objection. In the end, however, the judge for the preliminary investigation rejected this objection and agreed with me by ordering the dismissal citing the Public Prosecutor’s reasoning.
From the sales of the book I made a few hundred euros. From the outset, I had entirely donated these proceeds to charity, to WWF Italy. And so I, the author of the book, got nothing from the sale of this book. Nevertheless I had to incur legal fees to defend myself in the court proceedings. Fortunately for me they weren’t high, thanks to the fact that WWF Italy had suggested the lawyer Massimiliano Cané, a competent and committed lawyer, who defended me for a very low fee.
I realized how important it is to have a non-profit association in Italy such as Ossigeno per l’Informazione which, in addition to campaigning to change the unjust legislation that creates these situations, is committed to concretely helping people like me, who have done nothing wrong, even in the opinion of the judge who assessed the facts.
Matteo Antonio Rubino