The Concita De Gregorio Case/2. A ten year long trial

She was sued by Mediaset for an article by Travaglio published by l’Unita in 2008 when she was the chief editor. In 2015 she was found not guilty. Now there is an appeal and she has to respond even for the publisher who is no longer there.

The appeal will be heard in Rome on the 19th November 2018, ten years after the event. The appeal is the second level of the trial for defamation in print brought by Mediaset against the journalists Concita De Gregorio and Marco Travaglio for an article written by the latter and published in the daily newspaper l’Unita on the 8th October 2008. De Gregorio was the chief editor; Silvio Berlusconi led his fourth government supported by Pdl, Lega Nord and Mpa. Another era which, at least on a legal level, has still not ended.

The journalist will be represented in court by the advocate, Andrea Di Pietro engaged by the free legal aid office of Ossigeno per l’Informazione. The Observatory has decided to bear the costs of the defence because of the strategic value of the trial (as we explain separately –read here) to make everyone understand how punitive the procedures and the legislation regarding defamation in print are towards journalists.

Mediaset sued Travaglio and De Gregorio on the 27th November 2008. On the first trial level on the 9th March 2015 the Tribunal of Rome ruled in their favour “because the act did not constitute an offence” but the trial is not finished because Mediaset appealed the sentence. The determination of the appeal judgement was notified to De Gregorio on the 20th February 2018.

The journalist is accused of offences envisaged by articles 595, 57 of the penal code and by articles 13 and 21 of the 1948 law regarding the press, because as chief editor of the daily l’Unita she neglected to exercise the necessary control to avoid the offence of defamation of which Marco Travaglio is accused. Travaglio with an article of the 8th October 2008, published in l’Unita with the title, “I’m sorry but I confirm everything” allegedly damaged the reputation of Mediaset S.p.A. with the following assertion: “…Mediaset would have concealed in the following years hundreds of millions of undeclared funds in 64 off-shore companies.”

A copy of the article was included in a letter sent to the daily newspaper by the journalist Bruno Vespa, published under the title, “The trials of Berlusconi, the errors of Travaglio”. In the letter, Bruno Vespa asserted that Travaglio had written inaccuracies in a preceding article published on the 2nd October in relation to the trials which Berlusconi was facing after his entering politics.

On the 8th October, Marco Travaglio replied to Vespa with that article entitled, “I’m sorry but I confirm everything” confirming word for word what he had written on the 2nd October and adding that “.. Mediaset would have concealed in the following years hundreds of millions of undeclared funds in 64 off-shore accounts.”

According to Mediaset’s lawyers, this last phrase would be damaging to the company’s reputation besides being without any basis because, they insist, the publishing company “was completely unrelated to the creation or management of offshore companies” which the journalist had written about and had no contact whatsoever with the companies formed in the various tax havens and linked to Fininvest. And therefore Mediaset had sued.

In the not-guilty judgement of 2015 the Tribunal underlined that what Travaglio wrote has been upheld, judicially, by several consultants of the prosecuting magistrate who investigated the affair: the consultants considered that the offshore companies were linked also to Mediaset.

This is why the judge of first instance acknowledged that Travaglio might have been right or believed he was right.

Concita De Gregorio, meanwhile, lost the indemnity from the publisher of l’Unità that no longer bears any legal fees. Therefore, in addition to having to pay, on her own, the costs of the judgment, she risks in the event of a conviction having to pay compensation to Mediaset from her own personal resources already drained due to other trials she has had to bear without the assistance of the publisher.

Who is she?

Concita De Gregorio is a prestigious journalist of the daily newspaper La Repubblica for whom she has worked since 1990 with a gap of three years (from 22nd August 2008 till the 7th July 2011) during which period she was chief editor of l’Unita. During those three years the newspaper, the voice of the Democratic Party, fought fierce campaigns and conducted investigations, receiving numerous lawsuits and writs for defamation, for which she had to accept responsibility for a lack of control insofar as she was chief editor. When the financial crisis of l’Unita from 2014 onwards deteriorated, passing through various stages before ending on the 2nd June 2017 with its ceasing publication, the liquidation of the publishing company and in April 2018 with the auctioning of the title in order to pay creditors, the publisher no longer bore the legal expenses for journalists facing trial, nor did it bear the compensation to be paid in the case of sentencing. The affair created serious difficulties for numerous journalists and revealed a serious shortcoming in the regulations which allows the

defaults and civil liabilities of publishers who liquidate the business due to insolvency to be dumped on the journalists. Up until now no solution has been adopted despite all the commitments to fill this gap with new legislation.

ASP

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