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OSCE media monitors criticize 'Vatileaks' trial of journalists


  • Italian journalist and author Emiliano Fittipaldi is surrounded by media as he arrives for the first day of the 'VatiLeaks' case at the Vatican Nov. 24. All five people accused of involvement in leaking and publishing confidential documents about Vatican finances were present at the opening of the criminal trial in a Vatican courtroom. (CNS photo/Ettore Ferrari, EPA)
  • Italian journalists and authors Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi and Italian laywoman Francesca Chaouqui, a member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, are seen in a courtroom Nov. 24, the first day of the 'VatiLeaks' case at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
  • The opening proceedings for the 'VatiLeaks' case are seen in a Vatican courtroom Nov. 24. All five people accused of involvement in leaking and publishing confidential documents about Vatican finances were present at the opening of the criminal trial in a Vatican courtroom. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
  • Italian journalists and authors Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi arrive for the first day of the 'VatiLeaks' case at the Vatican Nov. 24. All five people accused of involvement in leaking and publishing confidential documents about Vatican finances were present at the opening of the criminal trial in a Vatican courtroom. (CNS photo/Ettore Ferrari, EPA)

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OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Media monitors at the 57-country Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe condemned the Vatican's trial of two journalists and urged the Holy See to honor its international press freedom commitments.

"Our main concern is for the protection of confidential sources -- this is a pillar of investigative journalism," said Gunnar Vrang, spokesman for the Vienna-based OSCE's Media Freedom Office. "I can't speculate on whether we'd bring intergovernmental pressure to bear, or on how this case may affect the image of Pope Francis. But there will certainly be public pressure."

In a Nov. 25 interview with Catholic News Service, Vrang said there had been no church reaction to a Nov. 23 statement from the OSCE's Media Freedom Representative, Dunja Mijatovic, calling on the Vatican to drop charges against Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi. The two are among five accused of involvement in leaking and publishing confidential documents about finances in the Vatican, which criminalized the release of "news and documents" in July 2013.

Vrang said Vatican claims that the journalists had exerted undue pressure on their informants were "only rumors," and he said the Holy See was expected to respond to international criticisms at a Nov. 26 session of the OSCE's Permanent Council.

"This is our first statement about the Vatican since our office was founded in 1998, and the ideal scenario is these charges will now be dropped and the journalists set free," said Vrang. "But we can't issue injunctions, and we've no practical mechanisms to ensure this happens -- our only tool is to raise our voice."

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also criticized the trial. In a Nov. 23 statement, it said journalists "should be allowed to carry out their role as watchdog and investigate alleged wrongdoing without fear of repression."

The OSCE office observes media developments "as part of an early warning function," and seeks "to ensure the safety of journalists" and "the development of media pluralism," according to its website.

In June, its report raised concerns about treatment of the media in 38 OSCE member-countries and urged states to "stop treating journalists, especially those holding different opinions, as enemies."

In her statement, Mijatovic said Nuzzi and Fittipaldi had written about "alleged financial mismanagement and corruption in the Vatican City" and faced up to eight years in prison if convicted, adding that the OSCE was now calling on the Holy See to "protect journalists' rights" under its commitments as an OSCE founder-member.

A spokeswoman for the Holy See's Permanent Mission to the OSCE told Catholic News Service Nov. 25 she could not comment on the criticisms.

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