Fabio Buonofiglio (Other Pages) had been sentenced to 3 months in prison for an article in 2011. For the Supreme Court the penalty was disproportionate
The Supreme Court considers prison sentences inflicted on journalists for the offence of defamation to be disproportionate. Therefore the Fifth Criminal Section, with a sentence of September 19th 2019, cancelled, without further appeal the sentence for defamation of three months of imprisonment imposed in the first and second degree trials on the journalist Fabio Buonofiglio, chief editor of the magazine – now an online newspaper – Altre Pagine (Other Pages).
The Court explained that imprisonment for this offence is incompatible with the freedom of expression of journalists guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Court of Human Rights.
Meanwhile, since more than seven years and six months have passed since the publication of the article for which the journalist had been sued by a magistrate, the offence is out of time. The journalist was defended by the recently deceased lawyer Salvatore Sisca.
THE FACTS: Buonofiglio in August 2011 had published an article entitled “The merry company of a justice that prostitutes itself”, in which he recounted a presumed extramarital love affair between a magistrate and a marshal on duty at a local public prosecutor’s office.
Maria Vallefuoco, the only married female public prosecutor in the Rossano Public Prosecutor’s Office, had filed a lawsuit against the journalist who had been sentenced in first instance in 2016 by the Court of Salerno and in 2018 by the court of Appeal of Salerno.
In the appeal to the Supreme Court, Buonofiglio claimed the plaintiff had not been identified. Moreover, he complained about the non-execution of all the texts and the nature and extent of the sentence. For those reasons the Court considered admissible and for which it has annulled the sentence.
In this regard, the Supreme Court refers to the Sallusti and Belpietro sentences and points out that “the imposition of a prison sentence, even if suspended, for an offence connected to the media, could be compatible with the freedom of expression of journalists guaranteed by article 10 of the Convention only in exceptional circumstances, particularly if other fundamental rights have been seriously infringed, such as, for example, in the case of hate speeches or incitement to violence “and statesthat “the violation exists even if the custodial sentence has been suspended, as in this case ”.
The Italian Parliament has been debating proposed legislation for many years to resolve the problem by abolishing altogether the possibility of imposing a prison sentence for this offence.