True victim of reckless lawsuits is pluralism of ideas, says Mennella (Ossigeno)

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The price is paid by the citizen deprived of a right. The Secretary of the Ossigeno Observatory: the defamation bill has been held up in the Senate for years.

OSSIGENO 9 June 2022“The real victim of reckless lawsuits is the pluralism of ideas” and “the final price is paid by the citizen, deprived of his right to be informed about a fact of public importance“. With these statements the Secretary of Ossigeno per l’Informazione, Giuseppe Mennella, closed the conference “War, peace, information – The risks of journalists. The Ukraine case” at the Casa del Jazz in Rome.

In his speech, Mennella focuses on “the anomalous use of manifestly unfounded or abusive court proceedings “, one of the main ways “to attack the journalist who does his duty in compliance with ethical rules”. It is an “abuse of a right exercised too often to tie the reporter’s hands. We are living in a historic moment of weakness in the profession, devastated by job insecurity, where the lawsuit costs little to those who present it but costs dearly to those who are subjected to it since today journalists are often not covered by an indemnity clause”

All this – underlines the Secretary of Ossigeno – happens in the context of the Italian Parliament’s paralysis which for five legislatures has been pretending to change things. Italy has been condemned several times by the European Court of Human Rights which, with its judgments, insistently asks for respect of the principle of proportionality of penalties and fines in the sense that they must be proportionate to the economic situation of journalists convicted of defamation. The situation has improved slightly in recent months thanks to a sentence by the Constitutional Court which declared that the punishment envisaged by article 13 of the Press Law on the subject of libel to be an infringement , but “the draft bill on defamation, which would eliminate imprisonment for journalists, is still stuck the Senate “.

A measure that could represent “a disincentive” to lawsuits against journalists is the reform of Article 96 of the Code of Civil Procedure which provides that anyone issuing unfounded lawsuits can be sentenced to pay up to half of the compensation the lawsuit demanded from the journalist. However, this bill is also blocked in the Senate.


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