The right to be forgotten closes an online newspaper

In Abruzzo the online newspaper has spent too much to defend itself from the requests to cancel some news reports and in September 2018 it has suspended publication.
On the 26th September 2018, the day of the thirteenth anniversary of the newspaper’s start, instead of celebrating its birthday, the online newspaper announced the end of publication, due to a serious liquidity crisis that prevented its paying salaries to employees. Announcing the decision to the readers was the chief editor Alessandro Biancardi with a bitter farewell letter (read here).
Among the causes of economic difficulties are the legal fees that the newspaper incurred to defend the right to publish and to keep the news stories readable. In fact, was among the first online newsletters in Italy to be charged with failure to comply with the so – called “right to be forgotten” and had to devote substantial financial resources to expenses for the legal proceedings.
Ossigeno has carefully monitored the first trial begun in 2010 which remains a milestone.
The facts are clear. In 2008 in a restaurant in Ortona (Chieti) two people fought with knives. The Chieti web newspaper wrote about it, truthfully and correctly as the judges also recognised. But two years later the manager of the restaurant warned the newspaper to remove and unlink the article as it drew negative attention to his restaurant. In 2013, the Court of Ortona accepted his appeal and imposed on the chief editor a fine of ten thousand euros and in order to recover the sum, authorized the confiscation of the scooter of the journalist who had no other assets. The newspaper protested, appealed to the Court of Appeal and three and a half years later, on June 24th 2016, the judges of the first civil section confirmed the first instance ruling, stating that the permanence on the website of the article damaged the image of the restaurant manager. The judges ruled that the right to report and the public interest have already been satisfied during the period when the text remained on the net. Yet the trial for that stabbing began only in May 2016 so that the story is still very current. Commenting on the sentence, Ossigeno highlighted that in Italy the right to be forgotten is not regulated by any norm and it is surprising to see the right to demand the cancellation of a news story accepted just two years after the events described.
That sentence also reverberated abroad, provoking ironic comments, among others, of the Guardian with its headline: “Here’s how the Italian courts have used the right to be forgotten to put an expiry date to the news” (read here).

“With that sentence – said the director Alessandro Biancardi in talking with Ossigeno – the Appeal Court has opened the Pandora’s box. Since then, requests for removal have rained down on us, even for articles published just two months earlier, often referring to events of clear public interest such as judicial events still under way. And together with the requests our difficulties have increased, also on the financial level”.
In order to mount a legal defence, the newspaper had to incur more and more legal fees, an . expenditure that in the end has created instability.
“I think has paid too high a price for maintaining an independent editorial line. Unfortunately in this country, the more you are free the more you are penalized. One can say that our newspaper preferred to die rather than lose its freedom.”

IF (wt)

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