Syracuse. Journalist and interviewee sentenced to prison now acquitted in the Supreme Court

An 8-year judicial odyssey. They were sued by the former prosecutor Maurizio Musco who, according to the Supreme Court, had been legitimately criticized and for a matter of public interest

OXYGEN 22 July 2021 – There was no libel but legitimate criticism and information of public interest, the Supreme Court said, putting an end to the judicial odyssey of a journalist and a municipal employee of Syracuse sued 8 years ago by a magistrate of their city. The Supreme Court overturned the guilty sentences handed down in the first and second instance.

The Supreme Court ruled on February 17, 2021, (read the sentence), annulling without postponement the sentence of the Messina Court of Appeal which had sentenced the journalist Luca Signorelli to a fine of 400 euros and Carmelo Parrino to two months of imprisonment at 400 euro fine. At first instance, the criminal court had sentenced both to two months’ imprisonment and damages to be determined. Instead, for the Court of Cassation Luca Signorelli and Carmelo Parrino legitimately exercised, respectively, the right to report and that of judicial criticism and therefore the fact they are accused of “does not constitute a crime”. Among other things, this affair reaffirms the need to urgently change the law on defamation in the press and reports this to the Government and Parliament committed to discussing a justice reform to put Italy in step with Europe.

THE INTERVIEW of the journalist Luca Signorelli (at the time a collaborator of the newspaper La Sicilia) to Carmelo Parrino, a former official of the Province of Syracuse, was published on 2 June 2013 in the newspaper La Sicilia, with the title “From innocent 42 days of prison ”, referring the criticism of the interviewee to the then deputy prosecutor Maurizio Musco, who had reacted with the complaint against both of them for aggravated defamation.

BACKGROUND – In 2005 Carmelo Parrino was arrested on charges of attempted extortion against two companies in the petrochemical sector (Snam Progetti and Sindyal). Criminal lawyer Piero Amara (not as well known at the time as he has been for a couple of years) was the lawyer of the two companies. The investigation was coordinated by the then Public Prosecutor Maurizio Musco. Carmelo Parrino had remained in prison for 42 days but at the end of the trial he was acquitted with the formula “the fact does not exist”. In the interview, he declared himself the victim of a conspiracy and criticized Maurizio Musco for conducting the investigation into him, recalling among other things that now (at the time of the interview) the magistrate was being investigated in a proceeding accused of illicit exercise of his functions, for which he was then definitively convicted and dismissed in 2019.

Murizio Musco was convicted and removed from his office for having violated the obligation to abstain from the role of representative of the public prosecution in the preliminary hearing of a trial that saw, among others, Giuseppe Amara, defended by his son Pietro, to whom Musco was linked by economic relations and friendship. In the interview, Carmelo Parrino claimed to have been convicted because Musco considered the verification he had placed on the two companies defended by his friend Piero Amara “inconvenient”. (read 1 and read 2)

THE CASSATION – This sentence of the Cassation recalls and clarifies once again what are the duties of a journalist who interviews someone. It says in what sense it is required to faithfully report the content of the statements, even those that may be unwelcome to someone. Referring to the jurisprudence in this matter (in particular to the historic ruling 37140 of 2001 of the United Sections on the Galiero case) and national and international rules and treaties, the judges of the V criminal section of the Supreme Court President Gerardo Sabeone, rapporteur Matilde Brancaccio) concluded that the Messina Court of Appeal “held erroneously ”that the appellant Luca Signorelli had not taken the necessary neutral position of third observer, and was wrong in considering that the matter was not of public importance.

THE PUBLIC RELIEF OF THE CASE – In both previous levels of judgment, in Messina, the Supreme Court has been accused of a misleading reading of the story “which – the judges write – overwhelms the very foundation of the excuse and the right of journalistic news, and that is the interest of public opinion in being informed about certain events “. And therefore the Peloritan colleagues are wrong “on the one hand, in not recognizing importance to the social position attributable to Parrino through illogical and limiting judgments, which forget his role as an official of the Province and the public value of his judicial affair. On the other hand, the Court of merit, just as erroneously, is not interested in the profile of notoriety of the offended person and his sensational, negative headlines in the news as investigated for illegal conduct committed as a magistrate of the public prosecutor, serving at the Public Prosecutor’s Office. of Syracuse, connected to his friendship with the lawyer Piero Amara, who, mind you – as the contested provision itself premises – was also the defender of the two companies subjected to checks by Parrino. ”

DUTIES OF THE INTERVIEWER – As regards the responsibility of Luca Signorelli, the judges, recalling the aforementioned sentence of the United Sections, reiterate that “the right to report is justified by the notoriety of the person involved in relation to the collective interest of the matter and not given a priori. The interview – they write – must be true and the continence check must be prepared with respect to the form in which it is proposed to the public and not with regard to its content, so that the journalist will answer only for any comments or clarifications made to what is reported by the interviewee or , if it is not reported verbatim, of the synthesis or paraphrase carried out autonomously, or, again, in the case in which (…) it can be considered that the author has not limited himself to receiving the interview but is in what way an occult author.

As for Carmelo Parrino, the Court considers that his criticism does not constitute a seriously damaging and unfounded attack and that the tone is never harsh or disproportionate. He voiced his disagreement with respect to a true story of considerable public interest. There is therefore: notoriety of the story and of the people involved; sufficient verification of what is narrated and public interest in the facts.


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