Italian journalists sentenced to jail for defamation

Calls again heard for changes to law jailing editors

Italian journalists sentenced to jail for defamation

Rome, May 23 - A Milan-based journalist has been sentenced to eight months in jail after judges found him guilty of defamation, Il Giornale daily paper said on Thursday. Outrage was swift to the conviction of Giorgio Mule', editor of the weekly news magazine Panorama, which is owned by ex-premier Silvo Berlusconi. Another journalist, Andrea Marcenaro, was sentenced to one year in jail in connection with the same article published in 2010 that allegedly defamed Palermo prosecutor Francesco Messineo. The latest convictions follow a similar defamation trial that led last year to a 14-month jail term for Alessandro Sallusti, and provoked anger over Italy's laws that imprison journalists. Sallusti - editorial director of Il Giornale, which is also owned by Berlusconi - saw his sentence commuted late last year by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. The president said at the time that he wanted to "remedy an evidently delicate situation (and) prompt a reflection to achieve better balanced legislation". A court last September 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. Mule', who is likely to appeal, was convicted in connection with an article written by Marcenaro and was also ordered to pay 20,000 euro compensation to a Palermo prosecutor. Politicians of all stripes condemned the court's decision. A member of Berlusconi's political party, the People of Freedom (PdL) called the convictions "staggering". And Vannino Chiti, a Democratic Party senator, said that sending journalists to jail for defamation "is a mistake that democracy can no longer allow". Instead, said Chiti, legislation should be designed to protect against defamatory information through the use of fines.

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