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Supreme Court rules out prison for journalists who defame

Except in 'exceptional circumstances'

13 March, 15:25
Supreme Court rules out prison for journalists who defame (ANSA) - Rome, March 13 - Italy's supreme Court of Cassation ruled Thursday that journalists cannot be imprisoned for defamation without "exceptional circumstances". Otherwise, the court ruled, their role as "public watchdog" is put in jeopardy. The court underlined that the decision reflects that of the European Court of Human Rights. A number of journalists have been sentenced to jail for defamation in Italy in recent years, but none with a higher profile than Alessandro Sallusti. The editorial director of Il Giornale, which is owned by three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi, was sentenced to a 14-month jail term in 2012, provoking widespread condemnation. His sentence was later commuted by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who said at the time that he wanted to "remedy an evidently delicate situation (and) prompt a reflection to achieve better balanced legislation".

A court had ruled that Sallusti was guilty of printing libellous remarks made by an anonymous reader about a judge in Libero, the right-wing paper he edited in 2007.

The comments concerned a ruling to grant a 13-year-old the right to have an abortion.

(photo: Alessandro Sallusti)