Giuliano Mignini does not like when people say mean things about him or nice things about Amanda Knox. This is an assertion shared by dozens of journalists who have covered Knox's murder and appeals trial over the last two-plus years. And now it's an assertion shared by the largest journalist-rights protection group around.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending the rights of journalists worldwide, is deeply concerned about local authorities' harassment of journalists and media outlets who criticize the official investigation into the November 2007 brutal murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher in the central Italian city of Perugia. CPJ is particularly troubled by the manifest intolerance to criticism displayed by Perugia Public Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, who has filed or threatened to file criminal lawsuits against individual reporters, writers, and press outlets, both in Italy and the United States, in connection with the Kercher murder investigation as well as the investigation into the Monster of Florence serial killings.
The CPJ points to several incidents of Mignini's longstanding beef with journos who don't write the kind of articles he likes.
One of the most extreme cases the CPJ cites is that of Mario Spezi, the co-author of Monster of Florence, which details a series of killings around Florence and Mignini's (the prosecutor in that case) quest to silence opposing viewpoints that ultimately led to Spezi being arrested and jailed.
The organization also cites Italian blogger Frank Sfarzo as being brazenly intimidated and physically attacked by Mignini goons.
Several members of Squadra Mobile, Sfarzo told CPJ, approached him just outside the city court (Corte di Assise di Perugia) and started to push and hit him. "You are pissing us off!"--they told him, referring to his coverage.
When the trial of Knox and Sollecito began that December, Squadra Mobile continued to harass him. They regularly tried to prevent him from entering the court; seized his cellphone and went through his contacts and text messages; mouthed insults at him from across the courtroom; and stared over his shoulder as he took notes. "This was done in the presence of the judge, the Carabinieri [the military police], and the court guards, but they would do nothing," Sfarzo told CPJ.
Even local Seattle publications have not been spared Mignini's wrath. The little West Seattle Herald, which has been all over the Knox case since it began, was apparently threatened with a lawsuit by Mignini two years ago.
The paper's managing editor Ken Robinson tells Seattle Weekly that Mignini's anti-press crusade proves it's not a good idea to be a reporter in Italy.
"When the case began, we obviously wanted to cover it. Being that Amanda Knox is from West Seattle it would be weird if we didn't," he says. "I couldn't afford to send a reporter to hang out in Italy. But I don't think I would even if I could have afforded it. I wouldn't want to subject a reporter from a weekly newspaper to any kind of harassment by Italian court."
Mignini is unlikely to respond to the CPJ's letter, and as we've reported before, Italy's crazy defamation laws allow people to be prosecuted for simply criticizing authority figures.
But with Knox's appeals trial showing more and more flaws in the evidence that put her in prison for the murder of Meredith Kercher, one can expect plenty more unfavorable stories to come out about Mignini and his questionable prosecution tactics.