Giuliano Mignini (AP)
Giuliano Mignini (AP)

Italian prosecutor files defamation lawsuit, shutters blog

New York, May 11, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Florence and Perugia authorities to drop the trumped-up defamation lawsuit against Perugia Shock, an English-language blog created and maintained by Frank Sfarzo, an Italian freelance journalist and blogger. Sfarzo has endured sustained harassment in retaliation for his reporting and commentary on the official investigation into the November 2007 murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher.

Sfarzo told CPJ that he received an email from Google, which hosts the site, last night informing him that a court order has been issued for the “preventive closure” of his blog dedicated to the Kercher case. In compliance with that order, Google took down Perugia Shock; it is now unavailable. It was from the court order, Sfarzo told CPJ, that he learned that Perugia Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini–who has a long-standing record of anti-press actions–has filed a lawsuit against Perugia Shock for “defamation, carried out by means of a website.” The court order, which stemmed from Mignini’s claim, was issued on February 23 by Florentine Judge Paola Belsino. Mignini is the lead prosecutor on the Kercher case.

“We call on Perugia Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini to drop his defamation lawsuit against Perugia Shock and allow it to remain online,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “This is hardly the first time Mignini has resorted to the law to silence his critics. It’s a heavy-handed tactic that is bound to have a chilling effect on journalists in Italy.”

CPJ has documented a history of official harassment, physical attack, and fabricated legal prosecution against Sfarzo–all stemming from his blog, which he created in 2007. The blog carried reporting and comments on the Kercher case. On it, Sfarzo regularly criticized what he considered flaws in the Kercher investigation, at times using harsh language to express his views. Sfarzo’s case was a focus of CPJ’s April 19 letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, which expressed concern at the anti-press actions of Perugia authorities.