The Cassation Court on Wednesday confirmed a 14-month jail sentence for Alessandro Sallusti, the editor of the Berlusconi family newspaper Il Giornale, for libel.
Sallusti was appealing an earlier sentence from June 2011 in which he was held responsible for printing libellous remarks submitted by a reader in another rightwing paper he edited, Libero, expressing outrage over judge Giuseppe Cocilovo's decision granting a 13-year-old the right to have an abortion. "If there were the death penalty, and if it were ever applicable in a situation, this would be the case. For the parents, the gynecologist and the judge," wrote the anonymous reader in 2007, who used the pseudonym 'Dreyfus'. The comment appeared in an article by Andrea Monticone, who now faces a new trial. The court ruled that since the comment was not directly traceable to the person who said it, the responsibility fell on the editor of the paper. It added Sallusti was responsible for misrepresenting the court's ruling as one that forced the girl to have an abortion, as opposed to granting her the right as a minor without the consent of both parents.
The case, which has aroused freedom-of-expression protests from Italian journalists of all leanings, prompted a special session of the Italian journalists union FNSI, which has not ruled out calling a strike. "The ruling defeats and kills the freedom of expression," FNSI Secretary Franco Siddi told ANSA, calling the decision "disturbing" in "a country with a democratic constitution". "Journalists know how to respond in unison," he added. Upholding the Milan court's ruling, the Cassation Court on Wednesday also ordered Sallusti to pay for all trial expenses, including an additional 4,500 euros for costs from the latest appeal. Following the ruling Wednesday, Sallusti announced he was stepping down.