SLAPPs. Thoughts of a freealance reporter acquitted after a 7 years trial for libel

Whenever we are attacked with spurious lawsuits, we reporters who respect truth and professional ethics should be systematically helped to defend ourselves in court

OSSIGENO March 1st 2022The freelance journalist Vanessa Valvo sent these remarks to Ossigeno’s Free Legal Aid Office, which defended her in court in the long trial resulting from a libel suit (read the news).

“I sincerely thank the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro and the Legal Aid Office of Ossigeno per l’Informazione, who came by my side and helped me overcome a difficult legal battle.

For these matters, if there were no Ossigeno, who else could we, as journalists, count on? I believe that when we are attacked with spurious complaints and without even being asked for a clarification or a correction, we journalists who respect both the truth and individuals and observe professional ethics, must defend our reasoning and deserve to be helped to face the expenses of defending ourselves in court by having the best lawyers at our side.

I thought that in my case this help would come from my professional body. It seemed obvious to me. But no, it was not like that. Therefore I think that Ossigeno is an important organization, which complements what the Order of Journalists does. Ossigeno is an organization to refer to when we need help in the face of vexatious lawsuits and other pitfalls to the freedom to carry out our work. I have seen that when we face these difficulties, Ossigeno supports us, answers all our questions, is committed and skilfully manages an often very intricate case. We are really lucky! And rescued!

Specifically in the libel trial against me and its conclusion, we are certainly all happy with the result. But I cannot help but make some bitter observations.

I would have liked to go all the way and not stop at a ‘convenient’ agreement for everyone. These settlements are made, in order to avoid unforeseen events and remove the disquiet even if in this way, as is the nature of compromise solutions, the arguments of both sides are silenced.

In my case, inter alia, the agreement was only possible after almost seven long years! And so, I wonder, was this lawsuit against me really necessary? What sense does it have?

I’m sorry for myself and for all my colleagues who, like me, happened to find themselves in this situation. I think they too have had the opportunity to ask themselves this question.

For the future of us information professionals, I hope that these so-called ‘aggressive’ plaintiffs will have less and less the law on their side and find less and less opportunity. Thanks again.

Vanessa Valvo

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