In a state of law, judgments are respected when they are enforceable, but nothing prevents them from being discussed. Especially when, as in the present case, a fundamental value of democracy is put at risk, such as freedom of the press.
It is therefore necessary to express full support to colleagues from “Report”, who intend to appeal to the Council of State (and then perhaps also to the European Court of Human Rights) against the sentence of the TAR which requires them to hand over to the lawyer Andrea Mascetti all the documentation concerning the episode entitled “Vassalli, valvassori and valvassini”, aired on October 26, 2020.
Mascetti, as an applicant, was granted the right to make a “Access to documents” on the data that allowed the editorial staff of Siegfried Ranucci to prepare a service that concerned him, as a professional who has carried out consultations to public entities. To those who know even a little superficially the law, the formula “Access to documents” it will certainly have caused a jolt: this right is in fact recognized to anyone interested in an administrative procedure, who requests it, having a legitimate interest in it.
Let’s take an example: if a Public Administration issues a notice for the supply of computers, I participate as a manufacturer and I am the loser, I have every right to do the aforementioned “Access to documents” to check the offer of those who have won and all the other cards connected to the competition, so as to ensure that there have been no favoritism. This is clearly right and, indeed, would be the case with extend this right to any citizen who requests it, because if it is public money we are all equally involved. This is not the case at the moment, but that’s another story.
In this speech, it is truly disconcerting that a news report is considered as an administrative act: they are two completely different activities, governed by different rules, and the fact that the publisher of “Report” both Mamma Rai, who is obviously a public entity. With all due respect, journalistic activity has its own specific legislation, regardless of who the publisher is: if not, we should conclude that in Rai it is not possible to carry out investigations while protecting the sources, while in Mediaset or La7 yes!
The protection of sources, on the other hand, is fundamental for journalism, especially if it makes uncomfortable inquiries: professional journalists (publicists don’t) have the right to oppose the Professional secret not to disclose their sources, even by refusing to testify in the course of a trial. Furthermore, last October the aforementioned European Court of Human Rights has set a further stake by specifying that, pursuant to Article 10 of the European Convention on Freedom of Expression, no Member State can force a journalist to disclose their sources, despite this it could be useful to the judicial authority to identify the perpetrator of a crime.
Why the protection of sources is so important is easy to understand: without this certainty, no one would disclose to journalists recordings, photos, videos, documents and other essential materials for let public opinion know the truth, with a very strong violation of the citizens’ right to receive correct information.
It should be remembered that, again last October, Italy only came in 41st place in the press freedom ranking drawn up annually by Reporter Without Borders: worse than Jamaica, Namibia, Costa Rica, Ghana and Burkina Faso, but better than the previous two years, in which we had a rating even more scarce.
Also for this reason, it is necessary to support a battle that is not only of “Report” and that clearly disregards both the judgment that is made of the program, and from the episode and the service in question: at stake is the freedom of the press and therefore democracy.