Catholic Church blasted over attack on press freedom
Italian journalists, Emiliano Fittipaldi, left, and Gianluigi Nuzzi are among five people who are set to go on trial in the Vatican on charges of leaking and publishing secret documents that exposed financial mismanagement in the Holy See.
If convicted, they could be jailed for up to eight years.
The accused journalists, the BBC reports, branded the trial “Kafka-esque”, saying neither they or their lawyers had seen details of the charges. Both wrote reports of the misuse of charitable and other funds in their books Merchants in the Temple: Inside Pope Francis’s Secret Battle Against Corruption in the Vatican and Avarizia. Allegations they published included the lavish refurbishment of apartments for cardinals and others.
This is a trial against freedom of the press. In no other part of the world, at least in the part of the world that considers itself democratic, is there a crime of a scoop, a crime of publishing news.
The three accused of leaking the documents are Msgr Angelo Lucio Vallejo Balda and his assistant Nicola Maio, along with PR expert Francesca Chaouqui. The special reform commission on which they were serving was set up by Pope Francis to tackle the Vatican’s financial holdings and propose reforms to improve cash flow to the poor.
Media groups have urged the Vatican to drop the charges. Nina Ognianova, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said:
Journalists should be allowed to carry out their role as watchdog and investigate alleged wrongdoing without fear of repercussions.
BBC religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt said the speed with which the Vatican has moved to charge the five stands in sharp contrast to the length of time it has taken to help bring many priests accused of child sex abuse to trial.
She adds that if long sentences are passed on the journalists, the Vatican would have no facilities for holding the inmates and would have to ask Italy – where freedom of the press is protected – to imprison them up on a charge that is not a crime there.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn