Italian Journalist Risks Being Jailed for Thirty Months for Libel

Update: 27 Jun 2017 State replied
Year 19 May 2017 Country Italy Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner AEJ , Index Alert level Level 2
19 May 2017 Italy Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State AEJ , Index Level 2

Gabriele Carchidi, editor in chief of the online newspaper iacchite.com, has been sentenced by a court in Cosenza, in the Calabrian region of southern Italy, to a total of 30 months in prison without suspension of sentence in four libel cases between September 2016 and May 2017. The latest conviction, handed down on 10 May 2017, resulted from a lawsuit brought by the mayor of Cosenza, Mario Occhiuto, concerning references to the mayor on Facebook. The other convictions relate to reports by the journalist about the behaviour of senior carabinieri officers, mayor Occhiuto and a Cosenza magistrate, respectively. Gabriele Carchidi is free while he awaits the result of his appeals to the Appeal court against these four verdicts. Media reports say he also faces the possibility of being tried and receiving further custodial sentences as a result of more than 60 other pending defamation lawsuits against him, mostly brought by politicians, police, magistrates and other public figures.

State replies

27 Jun 2017 : Reply from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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