In Rome Cosimo Caridi was identified, arrested and taken to a police station for refusing to delete his footage. Charged with interrupting a public service he will be legally aided by Ossigeno.
“If I wasn’t wearing this uniform, I’d break the camera on your head”; “You have to delete the video, you are risking arrest”, followed by the request to accompany them to the police station. Cosimo Caridi, freelance journalist and collaborator with national and foreign newspapers, was addressed in these terms by some officers of the municipal police of Rome while documenting, peacefully, with a video, the arrest of a street vendor. It happened on Tuesday 10th December 2019, in civilised and cultured Rome, in a central street, a few steps from the principal building of the Italian government. The officers stopped him, took him to their offices, interrogated him and charged him with interrupting public service, considering him guilty of having hindered them by filming their activities.
The reporter unsuccessfully invoked freedom of expression and the right to report. Then he turned to Ossigeno per l’Informazione (Oxygen for information) and requested and obtained assistance from the Observatory’s Free Legal Aid Office. In the legal proceedings against him, he will be assisted by the lawyer Andrea Di Pietro, coordinator of the legal aid service of Ossigeno. Ossigeno and its lawyer considered it strategically important to provide this assistance and give visibility to such a striking case that shows how a reporter can be intimidated, while legitimately exercising his profession, even by agents in charge of guaranteeing public order.
THE VIDEO – The journalist published on the Il Fatto Quotidiano website. (watch here) the video that contains the audio of his argument contradictory with the two agents, whose faces cannot be seen.
COSIMO CARIDI commented on the episode in another video published on the same site (watch here). He also released the following statement to Ossigeno: “In doing my job I have had problems with law enforcement in various countries: in Syria, Mexico, the Horn of Africa … and I have always had the certainty that the authorities, once they ascertained what was my role, would have protected me in some way. It has never happened to me to meet a person, fifty metres from an Italian government building, who felt entitled to treat this way knowing that I was a journalist. I have learned that it is always worthwhile to defend my rights, whether I am in a forest in Africa or in the centre of Rome. “
SOLIDARITY – The video reporter received expressions of solidarity from many of his colleagues and from the professional institutions of journalists.
THE INCIDENT – On the 10th December 2019 Cosimo Caridi was in central Rome, in via Minghetti. He had followed a trade union protest demonstration and realized that some municipal police officers were detaining a foreign street vendor who had fallen to the ground in an attempt to get away. The reporter turned on his video-camera and started shooting the scene while keeping his distance. His presence with the camera in his hand annoyed the officers. One of them approached the reporter and covered the lens with his hands. Then he asked him to show his documents. Meanwhile other policemen who had arrived on the place completed the arrest of the vendor. The officers requested Caridi to immediately delete the footage. The reporter refused invoking the right to report. This irritated the police officers who accused him of not knowing the legislation on the matter: “You are risking arrest,” they said. One of the two police officers told Caridi that if he had been without his uniform he “would have broken the camera on his head”. Then the two took him to the police station in the Campidoglio, where he was detained for over two hours and the charge against him was formalized.