A recent judgment by the Italian Supreme Court has stated the obligation to blur out the faces of beggars in photos accompanying articles related to social problems.
For this reason, the case of a Rumanian woman who brought a case of libel against a Trento newspaper for publishing a picture of her with the caption “a beggar at work in the historic centre of Trento” has been referred for re-examination. The photo accompanied an article with the title ” Trento citizens and the security package” which reported on the opinions of a number of Trento citizens concerning the usefulness of setting up vigilante patrols to prevent and discourage phenomena such as prostitution, vandalism and begging.
The judgment of the Court of Bolzano had stated that no case of libel could be attached to the simple combination of text to a neutral photograph, which merely served to draw attention to the topic of the article.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court considered that such reasoning was not entirely devoid of logical flaws. In fact, since collective consciousness places beggars on one of the lowest rungs of the social scale, it is natural that those who are forced by the hardships of life to beg, would feel mortified and humiliated in being branded as beggars.
The Court also found that in the offending article mention was made of a relationship between the phenomenon of begging in the Trento city centre and a criminal organization based outside the province of Trento itself. The journalist’s condemnation of the phenomenon was therefore clear and for this reason, the photograph could not be considered neutral since, according to the Court, the reader was led to identify the person in the photo with one of the problems to be stamped out in order to ensure life in the city is conducted in a peaceful fashion.
The Supreme Court judges also wished to mention that when for reasons of satisfying the requirements of news reporting it is necessary to show photographs of people involved in activities attracting seriously negative public opinion, blurring out the image is common and correct practice in order that creating a connection between the activity itself and any specific person should be avoided.
The case was therefore referred back to the Court of Bolzano for re-examination.