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Italy25 November 2002

Italian journalist in Paris would be jailed for press crimes if he returns home

Reporters Without Borders today protested against a sentence of two and a half years in prison for libel imposed by a Naples court on journalist Raffaele Jannuzzi. On 20 November, the judicial authorities refused to grant the 74-year-old journalist "semi-liberty" or convert his prison sentence to one of confinement to residence.

"Sentencing journalists to prison terms for press crimes is contrary to United Nations standards and is unworthy of a democracy," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to justice minister Roberto Castelli, calling for an urgent reform of Italian law on press crimes. "Prison sentences must be abolished in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations human rights committee and the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression", Ménard said.

Jannuzi has been a senator for the Forza Italia party since May 2001 but his parliamentary immunity does not protect him in this case, in which he has been convicted as editor of the daily newspaper Il Giornale di Napoli for articles published between 1987 and 1993, in particular, articles criticising judicial officials in charge of combatting the mafia. Jannuzzi himself wrote many investigative pieces on the mafia and defended television presenter Enzo Tortora, convicted in 1983 of colluding with the mafia on the basis of the statements of mafia members cooperating with the authorities.

Jannuzzi is currently in Paris to attend a session of the Council of Europe and would be imprisoned on his return to Italy. He told Reporters Without Borders that he intends to remain in Paris until the end of the council’s parliamentary work on 16 December. Thereafter, he said he would return to Italy when the Italian authorities recognize the immunity he enjoys as a member of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe and the Western European Union.

Another Italian journalist, Stefano Surace, was arrested and jailed in Italy on 24 December 2001, without being retried, for old press crimes dating back more than 30 years. In the 1960s, when he edited the nonconformist newspaper Le Ore and was well known for his reports on prison conditions, Surace was convicted in absentia and sentenced to more than two years imprisonment for "libel" and "obscene publications." After being allowed to serve his sentence in the form of confinement to residence, Surace skipped the country and returned to live in France, where he has resided for the part 25 years.

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