The collective document “Attack on the free media” signed by local newspapers, the professional order and the journalists’ union, raises an alarm without precedents in Italy
OSSIGENO March 2nd 2022 – This is the full text of the collective document published on Friday February 25th 2022 by the local print and online newspapers of the Italian Regione Calabria that signed it together with the president of the Regional Order of Journalists, the secretary of the regional trade union of journalists and the president of UNCI, the regional section of the National Union of Italian Reporters.
The attack on the free media in Calabria – warnings, transactions, vexatious lawsuits. The life of editorial offices and the attempts (which will not succeed) to intimidate reporters. A common enemy to fight together.
It is useless to pretend otherwise; in Calabria there is a strange concept of the free press. It is applauded when it reports on “enemies”, according to a classification that is as personal as it is elusive. When, on the other hand, it talks about personal or consortium interests, it becomes an enemy to fight or, better still, to be killed.
The tools to intimidate are not lacking: warnings which are a prelude to “dealings”, which then open the doors to requests for compensation that lead to lawsuits often temerarious (SLAPPS). There are dozens of examples: entrepreneurs who, considering themselves defamed by a news article, come to demand six figure sums from those for whom the request for such compensation becomes exceedingly oppressive.
Politicians who felt their pride was wounded by a sentence ask for the retraction of an article the day after its publication threatening a lawsuit (also in the millions?). This then compel the journalist, editor and publisher to start wandering around the courtrooms, perhaps for years. The list may then become too long. Let us be clear: we are not questioning here the right to seek justice if you consider yourself defamed.
The point is that the examples that every editorial office could show include such bizarre requests as to raise suspicions that the real issue is something else, i.e., to try to gag the press. We are in an area defined by the distance between on the one hand the damage to one’s own integrity and on the other the attempt to intimidate reporters, columnists, and newspapers. The impression is that it is often the second objective that is achieved.
We don’t need to rip our clothes over this but we will all continue to do our job documenting facts, reporting opinions, and highlighting the inconsistencies in an area that becomes ever greyer. And we will defend ourselves from compensation claims and vexatious lawsuits. But what we can no longer do is to remain silent in the face of the methods and the numerous cases that suggest that we are facing a real attack on the prerogatives of the free press.
It is high time to respond to this aggression. How? In the words of the national anti-mafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero de Raho, “we must safeguard journalists from reckless legal action. Journalists are cited in many civil cases with demands for stratospheric damage compensation. And, as a result, the journalist is then unable to carry out his or her work serenely”.
The above mentioned magistrate, formerly head of the anti-mafia team of magistrates in Reggio Calabria, knows the Calabrian situation well. In his speech at the international round table organized in Syracuse, Italy by the “Ossigeno per l’informazione” association, Cafiero de Raho proposed a solution: “What could be the model safeguard? When compensation is sought in a vexatious lawsuit the person who sued the journalist should, if he is wrong, be sentenced to pay double the damage compensation claimed to the defendant “. Because “information today is the cornerstone of democracy”. And not an accessory to be flaunted according to (one’s own) convenience.
Giuseppe Soluri, president of the Order of Journalists of Calabria
Andrea Musmeci, secretary of the journalists union of Calabria
Michele Albanese, president of Unci Calabria
Il Quotidiano del Sud
Corriere della Calabria
Il Giornale di Calabria
La Nuova Calabria
Arcangelo Badolati, journalist and writer