Gangemi, the 79-year-old editor of the monthly magazine Il Dibattito (The Debate), was taken into police custody the day after he was found guilty of libel and perjury. He initially faced a six-year sentence on all charges, but the sentence was reduced to two years. He spent a week at a Calabria regional prison before being transferred to home confinement on October 12, 2013.
The imprisonment stemmed from eight libel convictions against Gangemi between 2007 and 2012 in connection with articles and commentaries in his magazine about public life in Italy, with a focus on public figures involved in corruption cases.
Gangemi was also convicted of perjury in a case originating in 1992 that was finalized in 2012. He publicly accused a local politician of financial misconduct during the 1990s corruption investigations known as “Tangentopoli,” while he himself briefly served as a regional councilor in Calabria region. In that case, the editor was also found guilty of failing to disclose his source for the accusations.
Although Italy is one of the few countries in the European Union where defamation remains a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment, journalists are often made to pay fines rather than go to prison. Elvira Tafuri, public prosecutor in the Catania region, told the press that Gangemi’s arrest was necessary because the journalist’s lawyers had not requested an alternative sentence, or fine, from the judge.
In September 2013, the European Court of Human Rights found Italy in breach of Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (freedom of expression) for giving a newspaper editor a suspended four-month prison sentence for criminal defamation. Despite domestic and international calls to decriminalize defamation, the Italian parliament has so far failed to reform its laws, which date back to the 1930s.
Gangemi is disabled and has cancer, according to local news reports.