Mussolini's enduring grip on
Italian media freedom: the case of Lino Jannuzzi
Italian senator and former journalist has fallen victim to Fascist laws which
continue to limit freedom of speech in Italy. Torquil Dick-Erikson
considers the implications of such cases for the European Arrest Warrant
The Italians are still using the criminal code Mussolini drew up for them in 1930. The dictator laid down all sorts of criminal offences that can be committed by the press. Mr Jannuzzi has committed three of these offences and the penalties add up to 2 years and 5 months, which he will have to serve.
As editor of a Neapolitan newspaper, he wrote in an editorial that the editor of another Neapolitan newspaper was using words which were "reminiscent of the prose of Mino Pecorelli". For writing this piece of literary criticism, Mr Jannuzzi was convicted and given a one-year prison sentence for "defamation and threatening behaviour".
Mr Pecorelli, an Italian journalist who ran his own magazine in the 1970s and specialised in scoops and revelations of the seamier side of Italian politics, was murdered by an unknown gunman in 1978. Seven times Italian premier Giulio Andreotti has just been sentenced to 24 years for having ordered the Mafia to carry out the murder.
The judges who convicted Mr Jannuzzi held that to compare a person to a Mafia victim was a Mafioso way of intimidating that person by suggesting that they might come to a similar end. My source does not say why the words were also "defamatory". Presumably the judges thought that Mr Pecorelli had a poor written style, so that to compare another journalist to him was defamatory.
Mr Jannuzzi was given the second year of his cumulative sentence for an article in which he criticised one of the judges involved in a 1980 case which saw the well-known TV gameshow host Enzo Tortora falsely accused of being a Mafioso boss. Mr Tortora was held in custody for three years before being finally cleared on appeal. For having made a spirited criticism of the role of this judge in a newspaper article, Mr Jannuzzi was convicted for defamation by other members of the same professional brotherhood as the judge who claimed to have been defamed. (There are no independent juries in continental Europe).
The remainder of Mr Jannuzzi's sentence was due
to another case in which a private citizen had pressed criminal charges against
him for an article that appeared in the newspaper which he was, as editor,
legally responsible for. During the case this person died of natural causes. As
his heirs had no right to drop the charges, it ran to its conclusion.
Defamation is not one of the 32 listed
Note: Torquil Dick-Erikson is a British legal researcher who has lived in Italy since the 1960s. This article was first published by JUST Response on November 22 2002.