Local court convicts Insider editor of libelling FAO, orders heavy damages

ROME – The editor of the Italian Insider was found guilty at the Rome Tribunal Friday of criminal libel against the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), but was cleared of charges relating to a report in the English-language newspaper on job-rigging by senior FAO executive Mehdi Drissi.

 Judge Chiara Riva found Mr Phillips guilty on charges of defaming the FAO and three other executives of the UN agency and ordered him to pay a fine of 1,800 euros. The prosecutor had asked for a 2,000 euro fine. But the judge also ordered the editor to pay an advance of 40,000 euros on civil damage claims by the FAO and the executives and ordered him to contribute at least 13,680 euros in legal costs incurred by the UN agency and its employees in sueing Mr Phillips.

 Defense lawyer Manrico Andreozzi said he would lodge an appeal against the verdict. Mr Phillips described the result as disappointing but vowed that the Insider will continue publication despite the heavy financial measures imposed by the FAO effort to silence it.