Journalists Fined After Terror Attack Prevail at Rights Court

STRASBOURG, France (CN) — Two journalists fined by an Italian court for defamation after they reported that a 1980 terror attack could have been prevented won damages Thursday for violations of their rights.

Renzo Magosso wrote the article “Tobagi Could Have Been Saved” nearly 25 years after members of a left-wing terror group call the Brigade XVIII March shot political reporter Walter Tobagi to death outside his home in Milan.

“Una Fredda Mattina di Maggio” (A Cold May Morning) is a 1990 film directed by Vittorio Sindoni, loosely based on the murder of journalist Walter Tobagi in Milan on May 28, 1980.

The article, which appeared in a weekly magazine called Gente, quoted police officer Dario Covolo as saying he had warned his superiors six months before the May 28 Tobagi ambush that Brigade XXVIII March had been planning it.

A number of people named in the article sued the magazine, Magosso and his editor, Umberto Brindani, for defamation. Magosso and Brindani were found liable and ordered to pay 1,000 euro fines, plus the cost of the court proceedings. The magazine was ordered to pay nearly 200,000 euros. 

Magosso and Brindani challenged this judgment before the European Court of Human Rights, securing a verdict in their favor Thursday.

Though the decision out of Strasbourg is available only in French, a translation says Italy’s courts “had not given relevant and sufficient reasons for discounting the information provided by the applicants.”

Brigade XXVIII March was a spinoff of The Red Brigades, which were active during the Years of Lead, a period of social and political turmoil in Italy that lasted from the 1960s until the 1980s. The group opposed capitalism and was responsible for a number of murders, kidnappings, and terrorist attacks. The Italian government blames The Red Brigades for 75 murders in total and more than 10,000 other acts of violence. 

Tobagi had written a series of articles about the group ahead of his murder. 

The seven-judge panel at the ECHR found that the information in Magosso’s article about the murder was credible and that the Italian government had violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the freedom of expression. 

Italy owes Magosso and his editor 15,000 euros in damages and 3,500 euros in fees. 

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