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Italian journalists investigated over books exposing Vatican mismanagement

Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi attends a news conference for his new book
Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi attends a news conference for his new book "Merchants in the Temple" in Rome, 4 November 2015

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

This statement was originally published on on 18 November 2015.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) fully supports Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who has cited his free speech rights as grounds for refusing to be interrogated by the Vatican judicial system as part of an investigation into the leaking of confidential documents.

Suspected of complicity in the leak, Nuzzi is one of two Italian journalists placed under investigation by the Vatican in connection with their books exposing Vatican mismanagement.

Nuzzi announced his refusal to appear for questioning in his blog yesterday. “In the Vatican, there is no impunity provision for those who exercise a right, as there is in Italy,” he wrote. “The possibility of freely expressing one's thoughts is not recognized (...) The person who reveals information is liable to be punished.”

“By writing 'Avarizia' and 'Via Crucis,' Italian journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi just exercised their right to provide information in the public interest and should not be treated as criminals in a country that supposedly respects media freedom,” said Alexandra Geneste, the head of the Reporters Without Borders EU-Balkans bureau in Brussels.

The two journalists are being investigated under a Vatican law adopted in July 2013, after the first “VatiLeaks.” It says: “Whoever illicitly obtains or reveals information or documents whose publication is forbidden is punishable by a sentence of six months to two years in prison or a fine of 1,000 to 5,000 euros.”

The other journalist, Emiliano Fittipaldi, did respond to the summons to appear before a Vatican prosecutor but said he did not answer the questions put to him “on the grounds of professional confidentiality, which is protected by the law, in Italy at least.”

According to the Vatican's criminal code, the crime of which the two journalists are suspected is punishable both inside and outside the Vatican City and whether or not the perpetrator is a citizen of the small city-state ruled by the pope.

“There is a word for this kind of draconian law, the kind typically used by authoritarian regimes, and that word is 'censorship',” Geneste added. “It is one thing for the Vatican to try to protect itself from this scandal. But penalizing its exposure by journalists whose only sin was to do some investigative reporting cannot be tolerated.”

The leaked documents were gathered by a commission that was set up at Pope Francis' request in 2013 to examine Vatican finances.

Dubbed “VatiLeaks 2” by the media in allusion to a 2012 leak under Pope Benedict XVI, the investigation led to the arrests of a Spanish cleric close to Opus Dei, Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, and Italian public relations consultant Francesca Chaouqui, who are suspected of being behind the leaks. Chaouqui has been released for cooperating with the investigation.

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