Too many traffic fines issued! 2 journalists sentenced. Ossigeno helps them

In 2014 Emiliano Rozzino and Liborio La Mattina published on their magazine “La Voce” di Chivasso” a report by the police on the contested fines 

OSSIGENO June 1, 2022 – The Free Legal Aid  Office of Ossigeno , which works in collaboration with Media Defence, has awarded  a cash contribution to partially cover legal costs to the journalist Emiliano Rozzino who told his story with this text written for Ossigeno  by him.

Heartfelt thanks to the president of Ossigeno per l’Informazione, Alberto Spampinato, to the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro and to his staff for the precious assistance that was offered to us. In the face of legal proceedings such as those of which I and the editor of the newspaper “La Voce”, Liborio La Mattina, have been unwilling protagonists, finding those who want to listen, understand and even lend a hand is a real breath of oxygen in the vacuum that currently prevails around what should be a bulwark of our profession: press freedom and the exercise of the right to criticize.

Our legal affair  ended in the Italian Supreme Court on May 3rd 2022, with its  sentence that rejects the appeal we presented and definitively condemns us for the crime of libel  against the pro tempore mayor of Chivasso, a town of 30,000 inhabitants in the province of Turin.

THE FACTS – In the autumn of 2014 in a series of articles published by the local weekly “La Voce” we strongly criticised an increase in fines by the Municipal Police of Chivasso for violations of the highway code and we published the complaints of citizens and motorists in the area.

This increase in fines was, at the time, an issue deeply felt by the population, and by local politicians who on this issue had promoted the collection of signatures and presented appeals to the City Council. All the rival media published articles in a similar tone to ours. The increase in traffic fines was a trend which would be confirmed in the subsequent years in the revenue of the budgets and final accounts of the Municipality of Chivasso, but that is another story.

In one of these articles, the subject of the defamation lawsuit, we published a report of the weekly activity carried out by a team of Municipal Police officers which came into our hands from a source obviously internal to the police department of Chivasso. Considering it significant information for the local population, we felt it was our duty to make it public.

Despite the authoritativeness of the source and the authenticity of the document, the then mayor – who had been delegated responsibility for the Municipal Police – denounced the undersigned, author of the article, and the chief editor for defamation and became a civil party in the proceeding that opened in court in Biella.

Without going into the merits of these years of the trial, I would like to underline how we have never shied away from confrontation, debate, dialogue, placing ourselves at the disposal of the judiciary.

The lawsuit brought by that administration, which began at the end of 2014, has always been in the public domain in Chivasso for six long years.

It was well known, in the circle of local politics, and in the City Council, that the mayor had sued La Voce, the journalist Emiliano Rozzino and the chief editor Liborio La Mattina, and that relations between the mayor and the newspaper were very bad.

The Court of Biella, with sentence no. 144/19 filed on 03/05/2019, sentenced the undersigned and the chief editor of the newspaper to a financial penalty and to the payment of legal costs, in addition to compensation for damages suffered by the civil party.

The Third Criminal Section of the Court of Appeal of Turin, with a sentence dated 11/22/2021, confirmed the first instance sentence and finally our appeal to the Italian Supreme Court was declared invalid for reasons that we do not yet know.

Emiliano Rozzino

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