Reporters Without Borders denounces as outrageous the sentencing of an Italian journalist to 14 months in prison on a libel conviction.
The 5th chamber of the Cassation Court upheld on 26 September the sentence of Alessandro Sallusti, for having authorized the publication of a February, 2007 article in the daily Libero, concerning an abortion performed on a 13-year-old girl. Signed under a pseudonym, the article was deemed libelous in regard to a judge in Turin.
Sallusti was the newspaper’s editor. At the time of the latest judicial decision he was editor in chief of Il Giornale (a daily owned by a brother of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi). He resigned following the court action. However, the Milan prosecutor’s office then suspended the sentence.
“Suspending the sentence is by no means sufficient,” Reporters Without Borders said in its response. “Whatever the nature of the article, the simple fact that a journalist can be sent to prison for violating press law is unacceptable.”
That action violates Italy’s constitution, the press freedom organization said, as well as international conventions that Italy has ratified. These include the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. “The European Court of Human Rights has ruled consistently that press law violations must be sanctioned by limited and proportionate penalties. Imprisonment is prohibited, due to its intimidating effect on journalists,” the press freedom organization said.
The effects of the Sallusti case have international repercussions, the organization added. “What credibility can the European Union have in requiring that countries applying for membership or associate status follow European press freedom standards, when a founding state tramples on them?,” the organization said. It demanded judicial withdrawal of the sentence.
(Picture: Il Giornale)