While in other countries, government leaders do it – In Italy there are no rules, a reform is necessary but no one wants to implement it
OSSIGENO 25th November 2022 – In Anglo-Saxon countries, a political leader who takes up a parliamentary or government function as a rule retracts the lawsuits, in particular those for libel against newspapers and journalists. He or she does this to demonstrate not burdening the accused with their increased power and also to show tolerance of criticism. In those countries anyone who does not do so is deplored.
In Italy this practice doesn’t exist and no one invokes it. Nor are there self-regulating bodies of newspaper publishers and readers that regulate most of the complaints against newspapers without needlessly involving the judiciary.
And so in Italy every politician or government official does as he or she pleases and as a consequence many journalists suffer criticism and accusations that they do not deserve. They have to face trials for defamation that damage them even if almost always (nine times out of ten) they are acquitted. The law that allow this carnage needs to be changed. . By now everyone knows this but so far there is no parliamentary majority to do so and the unfounded, reckless, intimidating lawsuits continue to pour in undisturbed.
But every now and then one of the ten thousand lawsuits presented each year appears intolerable or at least less tolerable than the others, and therefore newspapers and journalists raise loud protests.
This is what is happening against two lawsuits filed by the Italian parliamentarian Giorgia Meloni, when she was the leader of the opposition party Fratelli d’Italia. The two lawsuits have led to two criminal trials right now just when Meloni since 22nd October 2022, has become president of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister). She is being criticized because instead of withdrawing her lawsuits she is maintaining her accusations of libel (read here).
The first lawsuit is against the writer Roberto Saviano who, in December 2020, commenting on the behaviour of some centre-right political leaders who opposed the docking of NGO ships carrying migrants rescued at sea (read here), called them “bastards” in an edition of the investigative television program ‘Piazzapulita’ on the La7 TV channel naming Giorgia Meloni and the leader of the Lega party Matteo Salvini. Giorgia Meloni sued. The public prosecutor Pietro Pollidori has sent the writer to trial. The first hearing was held on the 15th November 2022 and the next one is set for the 12th December.
OSSIGENO does not appreciate a political dispute that resorts to insults, but it understands that at certain times, occasionally, a politician or an opponent can use harsh, strong, colourful language, even outside the parliament. Political and government leaders have the right, just like everyone else, to go to court to defend their reputation. But due to the public role they play, they must curb the impulse to react to every offence. They must accept more criticism than an ordinary citizen. They should avoid lawsuits; eschew asking for judicial punishment of the excesses of language used by their detractors, because this restricts public debate. Public challenges must be carried out with the utmost freedom, in the general interest of the country and must be tolerated as long as it does not lead to incitement to hatred, violence and discrimination.
The second lawsuit concerns the newspaper ‘il Domani’. In October 2021 Giorgia Meloni, at that time leader of the opposition party Fratelli d’Italia, sued the journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi, as author, and Stefano Feltri, as chief editor, for an article containing statements made in the minutes of a meeting by Domenico Arcuri, former extraordinary commissioner of the government for the Covid emergency. The name of Giorgia Meloni appears in those minutes. According to Domenico Arcuri she had tried to recommend an entrepreneur who sold face masks (read the article here). In addition to denying the fact, Giorgia Meloni has sued the newspaper and journalists.
Ossigeno believes that in this episode Giorgia Meloni’s reaction is disproportionate and intimidating. Meloni could have more effectively restored her reputation by clarifying the facts and asking the court to insist that her version of events be published.
Ossigeno hopes that the prime minister will withdraw her lawsuits and devote her energies to reforming the law on the press and certain parts of the Italian civil code which make it possible to widely abuse lawsuits for libel to the detriment of journalists, the truth and the right to know and describe all the opinions and all the facets of each situation, and to give a wider right of reply to and rectification of news published by the media. This accomplishment has not been achieved by any majority in the last six Italian legislatures. ASP – GB
With the collaboration of Giacomo Bertoni