Trapani. 2 journalists on trial for libel declared innocent after 10 years

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The judgement of the Court of Appeal recognized the right of criticism. At first instance both had been sentenced to pay 30 thousand euros in compensation

Ten years after the events, on the 29th May 2020 the journalists Gianfranco Criscenti and Giuseppe Pipitone were acquitted by the Palermo Court of Appeal of defamation against the former member of the Sicilian Regional Assembly Francesco Regina who had cited them for damages for the article “Regina and the votes of Grigoli” published in the fortnightly L’Isola in July 2010. The Court of Appeal of Palermo, recognizing the right of criticism, revised the first instance sentence of the Cile Court of Trapani which in 2014 had sentenced the two journalists and the publisher to pay damages of 30 thousand euros in addition to court fees.

In the disputed article, the journalist Giuseppe Pipitone had described a meeting between the politician Francesco Regina and the entrepreneur Giuseppe Grigoli to ask for his electoral support on the occasion of the 2006 regional elections. Referring to the 12-year prison sentence of Giuseppe Grigoli for serious crimes, Pipitone wrote of this meeting and criticized the choice of the politician by writing: “for the umpteenth time therefore a politician confuses morality and justice. It is true that Grigoli at the time was not officially involved in investigations, but it is also true that like all entrepreneurs who have progressed rapidly in Trapani, it was not exactly an example of immaculate support that a politician, also a Catholic one like Regina, should seek in an election campaign”.

Francesco Regina had not disputed the meeting which was confirmed by both sides, but specifically the criticism of the journalist. According to the Court of Trapani, Pipitone described Francesco Regina as a politician who knowingly sought votes smelling of the Mafia and condemned Pipitone as the author of the article, the editor of the fortnightly newspaper L’Isola Gianfranco Criscenti and the publisher .

Ten years after the publication of the article, however, the Palermo Court of Appeal, reversed the sentence, acquitted the two journalists and the publisher by recognizing the right of criticism. In fact according to the court in his article Pipitone “reported both some facts, the historical truth of which is not contested by the appellate Francesco Regina, and opinions of the author of the article, which, by examining the overall tenor of the writing, appear fully distinguishable from the facts ” and, he continues, “in one sense, the article in question, although characterized by an overall sarcastic tone, does not contains fake news, and this news is clearly distinguishable from the author’s personal opinions. “

DB (wt)

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