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CPJ responds to readers' comments on Italy letter

In the past week, CPJ has received a number of emails in reaction to our April 19 letter, signed by Executive Director Joel Simon, to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, which details cases of harassment by Perugia authorities against journalists, writers, and bloggers who have critically covered high-profile local murder cases. Some of the emails we have received question the accuracy of our letter as well as our motives for writing it. Most of those stem from this post in reaction to our letter by a blogger, who goes by the penname Kermit. 

We acknowledge that with the ongoing appeals trial of two defendants in the 2007 brutal murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher, emotions are running high. A human life was taken in the cruelest manner, and justice must be served.

CPJ takes no position as to the alleged guilt or innocence of either of the defendants in the Kercher case. That is up to the courts to decide. What we are concerned about is that the press--domestic and international--is free to report and comment on the case without fear of reprisal. Alternative views, however unpopular or unpleasant those may be, must never result in harassment, physical attack, incarceration, or threats. Where such incidents occur, authorities must investigate them and punish all perpetrators in accordance with the law. Impunity breeds self-censorship, sensitive issues are left underreported or completely uncovered as a result, and the public ultimately suffers for it, deprived of the full picture of events.

Those in positions of power must understand that scrutiny and criticism, including the harshest of kind, comes with the office.

Our letter was based on firsthand interviews with subjects who were directly affected by Perugia authorities' actions in retaliation for their reporting or published comments in relation to the Kercher case, as well as in relation to another high-profile murder case, known as the "Monster of Florence" killings. We stand by it. 

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The same people who wrote the open letter are the same people who are posting pictures mocking the people intimidated by the police. I would take everything they write with a grain of salt. Here is just one of those pictures making fun of Frank Sfarzo: http://imgur.com/ejGfp


People are not concerned because they think you are taking a stand on controversial trial. They are concerned that you might be taking people at their word when they are lying, and who may even have been paid to lie.

This is not just a controversial trial. It's a trial with a huge PR component, very unique in that regard.

Please do not worry much about Kermit and the others. He is an infamous and anonymous internet troll whose special mission in life is to spread misinformation about the Knox-Sollecito case. You should ask Douglas Preston about Kermit's odd behavior some time.

The CPJ letter was right on point and very much needed. What you have said is so obviously true that it scarcely needs debating. A couple points of additional points if I might:

1) What CPJ does not say, presumably because it does not affect journalists, is that these same out-of-control authorities in Perugia have initiated legal action against others too:

* Amanda Knox faces a second trial and six more years in prison for saying in open court that the police cuffed her lightly on the back of the head during her interrogation.
* Her parents face trial and prison sentences for saying that they believed her. Her parents said this to a British reporter writing for a British publication while they were home in Seattle.
* Amanda Knox's lawyer and the lawyer of her co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito are under indictment for essentially the same reasons.

The action taken against Ms. Knox's parents is particularly telling because neither the reporter who did the interview nor the paper that published it faced any action. I suggest this may be because the stories they produced have been strongly slanted toward the prosecution.

2) There is, unhappily, reason to think the campaign of press manipulation and intimidation may have worked, at least until very late in the trial. During this period many reporters did little more than take dictation from the police and prosecutor. In fact, the very reporter who did the key interview with Ms. Knox's parents was observed in court whispering to the chief homicide detective during parts of the trial. The reporting has, I am happy to say, generally been much more objective of late.

Keep up the good work. If the Knox-Sollecito trial demonstrated anything, it is that we badly need a press that is willing to treat the claims of authority analytically and skeptically.

Paul Smyth
Traverse City, Michigan

Our letter was based on firsthand interviews with subjects who were directly affected by Perugia authorities' actions in retaliation for their reporting or published comments in relation to the Kercher case, as well as in relation to another high-profile murder case, known as the "Monster of Florence" killings. We stand by it.

-----------

Any chance the transcripts of these interviews are available? Even if they are Italian, it's up to you to provide evidence and transparency in the case of Frank Sfarzo. He himself has not supplied any details on his own blog.

What is the official CPJ position on the use of a PR firm to manipulate the message and prevent objective reporting on this case in the US by blacklisting journalists who refuse to swallow and regurgitate the PR firm's talking points? Is this not a form of intimidation that bears investigation and vigorous condemnation? It certainly poses a more fundamental threat to freedom of speech and the public's right to know.

The Sfarzo debacle is clearly a case where the CPJ took a position without thoroughly investigating the context, on the word of one of its financial donors, Doug Preston, who just happens to have a book and upcoming movie to plug. He wasted no time in leveraging this story for his own gain.

Incidentally, Preston defamed honest journalists covering the Meredith Kercher case in his MoF book, stating that they were nothing but "stringers" who essentially translated (plagiarized)the Italian tabloids in lieu of doing actual investigation and reporting for the Seattle PI. He further claims that this led to biased coverage throughout the US. In fact, the Seattle PI offered objective and original investigative reporting on this case from the very start, hiring a well-respected American reporter on the ground in Italy who is fluent in Italian. In other words, Preston lied to advance his own agenda.

I find it despicable that CPJ has allowed this kind of cronyism to replace objectivity and balance. You do a disservice to your own cause.

Nina, thanks for preparing a reply to the open letter I posted on TJMK. That was in reply to the CPJ letter which according to you "details cases of harassment by Perugia authorities against journalists, writers, and bloggers". You later state that "our letter was based on firsthand interviews with subjects" ... is that all it was based on? I thought you did an investigation.

Okay, you have to start somewhere, so you start with the word of the persons who feel that they have been victimised. But as a journalistic organisation, you should have looked to contrast the allegations these persons made. JOURNALISM 101: get both sides to a story ... did you try to contact Giuliano Mignini about what these persons said about him? ... did you consider the motive that these persons may have in accusing Mignini of criminal threats? ... did you do any basic fact finding independent of what the subjects said?

You said: "what we are concerned about is that the press--domestic and international--is free to report". The title of your letter was "In Italy, journalists threatened for reporting on murders". In my open letter on TJMK I gave specific examples of real journalists (neither part-time bloggers nor novelists) who have been threatened from pro-Amanda Knox quarters for their reporting on this case. I'm waiting for your investigation and open letter in their case.

Will it ever appear?

A few days ago I received a mocking email from an anonymous person who styles himself Harry Rag, which directed my attention to the very long letter by an anonymous blogger called Kermit, posted at the TJMK website. Parts of this posting call into question the accuracy of my book, the Monster of Florence, and the accuracy of the CPJ letter.

The Monster of Florence was published three years ago. Before publication, it was minutely vetted by no less than five attorneys in two languages in Italy, the U.K., and the United States. Since publication, it has been read by millions of people in many European languages. In all that time, and with all the millions who have read the book, not one significant error of fact came to light. Mario Spezi and I stand by every single assertion of fact in that book today just as strongly as we did when it was first published three years ago.

The various assertions of error by "Kermit" are distortions, falsehoods, and crackpot opinion presented as settled fact. Kermit's open letter contains many out and out lies. The criticism by Kermit of the CPJ letter is a similar tissue of distortions and lies. Not one criticism--not one--against CPJ in that letter is valid.

As a journalist, I put my real name and reputation behind every word I write. So does CPJ. "Kermit" and "Harry Rag" not only choose to remain anonymous, but these are very sophisticated computer users who have taken careful steps to hide their identities behind a screen of false IP addresses and various other hacker tricks to keep their identity secret. These two individuals (if indeed they are two separate people) have demonstrated a long history of falsehood and dishonesty in their published statements. They hide behind the veil of anonymity the web provides, mocking and threatening and ridiculing those they disagree with. They appear to have little or no regard for the truth, for straight dealing and honest discussion. They are not much different from voices shouting from a lynch mob, safe in the knowledge that they will never be held accountable for what they say.

We are all free to say what we like. But there is no obligation to listen. I do not believe "Kermit" and "Harry Rag" deserve the dignity of being listened to, until they are willing to step in the light like decent human beings and take responsibility for what they write.

Hang in there, Nina. Frank is under a lot of pressure, and he very much needs the protection and visibility afforded by the CPJ.

Doug Preston writes: The various assertions of error by "Kermit" are distortions, falsehoods, and crackpot opinion presented as settled fact. Kermit's open letter contains many out and out lies. The criticism by Kermit of the CPJ letter is a similar tissue of distortions and lies. Not one criticism--not one--against CPJ in that letter is valid.


Why don't you tell us what these lies are rather than merely asserting they are lies? Kermit at least has taken the time to document his assertions. It isn't enough to merely claim that the criticisms of CPJ or of Doug Preston are invalid. You need to say how and why. Kermit provided lots of documentation, and all of it checks out as far as I can tell.

Honestly, you come off as a self-absorbed man who has no qualms trying to destroy the reputations of others, including your fellow journalists, if it furthers your own aims. Tell us where the errors are.

Odile, I think you glossed over this:

"We are all free to say what we like. But there is no obligation to listen. I do not believe "Kermit" and "Harry Rag" deserve the dignity of being listened to, until they are willing to step in the light like decent human beings and take responsibility for what they write."

Why should Doug Preston respond the frantic ramblings of an anonymous troll?

Doug Preston states: We are all free to say what we like. But there is no obligation to listen. I do not believe "Kermit" and "Harry Rag" deserve the dignity of being listened to, until they are willing to step in the light like decent human beings and take responsibility for what they write.


The same could be said of "Frank Sfarzo", who does not use his real name either.

It seems to me that the claims asserted as facts by these individuals can and should be addressed whether or not the individual making the assertion uses a real name or a pseudonym.

Given that "Frank Sfarzo" is closely associated with the FOA, of which Doug Preston is a founding member, given that this organization has sought to discredit the Italians, the Italian police, the Italian investigators and one of the two prosecutors assigned to this case for three years non-stop, and given that this organization is an advocacy group and not a news organization, it seems quite legitimate to question the claims of brutality on the part of the blogger.


Doug Preston said: "As a journalist, I put my real name and reputation behind every word I write ... "Kermit" and "Harry Rag" not only choose to remain anonymous ... I do not believe "Kermit" and "Harry Rag" deserve the dignity of being listened to, until they are willing to step in the light like decent human beings and take responsibility for what they write."

Hi Doug, in your eyes should the anonymous Perugian blogger also step into the light?

Doug Preston said: "these are very sophisticated computer users who have taken careful steps to hide their identities behind a screen of false IP addresses and various other hacker tricks"

Doug, I'm flattered, you make me sound like some James Bond character being fitted out by "C". However, I promise you, I'm sitting at home right now with a cheap portable PC, I have no firewall, connected to my local ADSL provider, and my only Internet protection is the use of a Google email account.

By the way, I didn't attack your Monster of Florence book, it makes no sense that you dedicate a big paragraph to it.

Please detail any other lies that you say I've told. I think the TJMK post is quite clear. Now that you're on-line, and we're all reading, why did you change your attitude about Mignini after speaking about him in quite understanding terms in your The Atlantic interview?

To Odile,

I would be glad to engage in a discussion with "Kermit," and document with evidence his many lies and distortions. I'll do that as soon as "Kermit" is willing to step out of the shadows like an honest human being. If he really has the courage of his convictions, he would stand tall and speak as a real person. After all, Kermit knows who I am and he knows where I live, and he has spent a lot of time posting my photograph, my personal data, and even excerpts from my books to the web, all without my permission.

Until Kermit stops cowering behind false IP addresses, fake names, and computer tricks, he has not earned the right to be included in a reasoned, mature discussion. Or do you think, Odile, that despite all this we should be treating "Kermit" as a serious, honorable person worthy of our respect?

Kermit, Frank Sfarzo is not an anonymous simply because he has a pen name. His real name is accessible to anyone, including the police in Perugia. His picture is out there for all to see, as the website from which you often write so graciously took to mock him being beaten by police officers. How has he not "stepped into the light"?

You on the other hand are completely anonymous. Let's not compare the two of you. He's a well known blogger who attended the trial and you're an anonymous troll. And not a very smart one at that.

Here's what Mr. Preston said in a 2006 TheAtlantic.com interview about Perugia prosecutor and demented, vicious Mr. Mignini:

"...As for Mignini himself, I think he’s a sincere man and an honest and incorruptible judge. I don’t think that he’s a bad man. I think he really believed that I was guilty and that Spezi was guilty. I could see that in the interrogation he believed I was a liar. So, yes, I think he was doing his job the best he could..."

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/06/the-journalist-and-the-murderer/4997/2/

Yes, Doug I do. I think you should address the specific claims he has made like a mature person.
Incidentally, I have a question for you. In your Monster book, you claim that neither the Seattle Times nor the Seattle PI sent a reporter to Italy to cover the case and that instead they hired freelance stringers in Italy who did little investigative reporting and just digested and rewrote from the Italian papers. You further allege that the local papers did no fact-checking or verification. Moreover, you claim that other papers picked up this non-verified reporting and that this is what led many people to assume Knox was guilty.
This is a very serious charge to be making against Seattle papers and also against the journalists in question.
As most people know, the PI hired freelance reporter Andrea Vogt, while the Times used a number of AP reporters. Some of its early stories are signed by Marta Falconi, Christina Siderius and Nicole Winfield. They are all respected journalists. Which one are you accusing of "digesting and rewriting"? Or are you accusing all of them of this tremendous lapse of professionalism?

Chet,
Are you referring to me as an anonymous troll? If so, then you are mistaken. As for frantic ramblings, I have tried to be very clear. I am not a troll either. A troll is someone who seeks to disrupt discussion. I am trying to have one.
If you are referring to Kermit, I would argue that he is not a troll either. His writing speaks for itself. It is neither frantic nor rambling.
The internet is great because it is a leveller of sorts insofar as the "who's who" aspect is concerned. Legitimate questions properly posed deserve respectful answers. When someone seeks to pull rank in order to avoid discussion, it is there for all to see.

Caleb writes: Kermit, Frank Sfarzo is not an anonymous simply because he has a pen name. His real name is accessible to anyone, including the police in Perugia.


So what is the real name of "Frank Sfarzo"?

@ Caleb

The only thing Frank Sfarzo is well known for is the fact that he allowed numerous disgraceful comments on his MODERATED blog attacking the victim's family. So his fame does not stem from accurate reporting in this case.

Nina, I think what you are saying misses the central point. I don't think anyone is concerned that CPJ might take a stance on the guilt or innocence of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. However, it is clear that one of your financial backers does. The suspicion is that CPJ has effectively agreed to take his dictation on a letter which some will find offensive, in furtherance of someone's PR campaign and personal grudge. You appear to have done this without engaging in even the most basic fact-checking, such as contacting the Italian authorities for comment or consulting Google to see if there might be any other side to the story.

It is not, I think, a question of whether the allegations in the letter are well-founded (I don't get the impression CPJ has made any attempt at an assessment in this regard), but one of whether the CPJ is available for hire.

Surely you can see how, to an observer, this stinks a little. And how, in genuine cases of press harassment, it might potentially blunt your organisation's ability to advocate. Anywhere in the world, the claim might be made that CPJ is happy to complain about anything, without worrying about checking the facts, so long as it has been paid.

To be clear, I like both Doug Preston's book and Frank Sfarzo's blog (I'm a big fan of style over substance). I hope and expect to be able to continue to read Frank's work. I don't, however, think that claims that anyone has tried to derail it are very credible.

You are probably now belatedly aware that there is video footage on the Internet of one of the two really substantive episodes regarding Frank reported in your letter, and that it shows him being the victim of nothing much more that a routine attempt, after fair warning, to stop someone invading the personal space of the relative of a murder victim.

The other incident centres on the presence of police at Frank's apartment last September. The all-important information missing from the letter, which you ought to have included, is what business the police may or may not have had being there. Without that, it is impossible to begin any assessment of whether the actions of the police were proper or not. But not as far as the CPJ is concerned, it seems.

Thanks,
Maundy.

I would like to thank the Committee to Protect Journalists for their dedication to the safety and well being of journalists throughout the world. Frank has been under extreme pressure and it is comforting to see his situation receiving this much needed attention.

The group Kermit represents has a vision of a superhuman PR firm that can manipulate all aspects of the media. Kermit's group honestly believes that the CPJ letter voicing concern for journalists in Perugia, Italy, is part of a grand scheme put together by this magical PR firm they love to talk about.

Constant repetition of the PR firm fantasy has been damaging to Amanda Knox but has done nothing to give the allegation any credibility. The truth is Amanda's family hired a PR firm to organize interviews with the media. There was a media storm surrounding their daughter and they had every right to voice their support. The situation was new to them so looking for professional guidance was not out of the ordinary. This firm is not made up of super villains equipped with the capability of taking over every major news outlet in the world like Kermit and his group would like you to believe. As long as Kermit's group continues to voice this absurd nonsense, I don't think they warrant any attention at all.

Kermit's group will turn on anyone that disagrees with their position no matter how credible the person or organization is. Not only does Kermit's group suggest that CPJ was put under a spell by the mighty PR firm wizard, Kermit's letter insinuates that Douglas Preston has paid CPJ to write the letter. Kermit's group is demanding proof from CPJ while neglecting to provide any proof to back up their insane PR firm accusations or their attacks on well respected author, Douglass Preston.

Kermit's group who claims to have come together to preserve the memory of Meredith Kercher should be ashamed of their behavior. They claim Frank was pro-Meredith early on. What exactly are they saying? Do they honestly believe that Frank is now anti-Meredith? This group has shown repeatedly that they do not have a firm grip on reality. I would hope they would see the error of their ways, get out of the way, and allow CPJ to continue to do their valuable work without this needless distraction.

@ Douglas PReston

Readers following the Meredith Kercher case since 2007 know that there was a lot of intimidation and harassment from people supporting Amanda Knox. This is in my eyes a valid reason to stay anonymous when posting on the internet. I don't see how Kermit's raised points are invalid just because he/she chose to publish his/her concerns under a nickname instead of a real name.

It is my conviction that if you could silence Kermit with proof you would already have.

Bruce Fisher wrote "Do they honestly believe that Frank is now anti-Meredith?".

I don't know if Frank Sfarzo is anti-Meredith, but it is a fact that he allowed denigrating comments towards the victim and the victim's family on his blog he himself moderates.

Other (real) Italian journalists who reported about the case haven't been raided by the police. How come? Are they also part of the big dreamed up conspiracy?

"Bruce Fisher" is a fictional entity behind which many couwardly people hide, including Bruce Fisher himself. If we are to follow Doug Preston's logic, "Bruce Fisher" should be ignored until he mans up and comes out of hiding. He is very consistent at attempts to defame people who disagree with his fervent belief in the Doug Preston narrative. This too is a form of intimidation, bordering on harassment.

"Bruce Fisher" constantly claims that the Knox family hired a PR firm to organize their interviews with the media. This is true up to a point. David Marriott does not only organize requests for interviews; he actively solicits them and also puts pressure on journalists to stick to a set of pre-defined talking points. This is just one reason reporting in the US media has been generally so bad.

Anyway, to quote Doug Preston, "Bruce Fisher" should be ignored until he "is willing to step out of the shadows like an honest human being. If he really has the courage of his convictions, he would stand tall and speak as a real person."

Odile de Crécy April 28, 2011 10:26:18 PM ET

I duly note that Doug Preston and the CPJ have declined to address any of the points raised in the open letter. As Maundy Gregory points out above, the evidence is out there on the internet for anyone to see.

At no point did Kermit or anyone else accuse the CPJ of taking a position on guilt or innocence; like Maundy I feel that the CPJ representative Nina has entirely missed the point.

It is quite disappointing to see the CPJ apparently beholden to its payers rather than accountable to its simple readers. I guess we anonymous nobodies don't count.

Odile de Crécy April 28, 2011 10:33:28 PM ET

Odile wrote: "[Doug Preston] you claim that neither the Seattle Times nor the Seattle PI sent a reporter to Italy to cover the case and that instead they hired freelance stringers in Italy who did little investigative reporting and just digested and rewrote from the Italian papers. You further allege that the local papers did no fact-checking or verification. Moreover, you claim that other papers picked up this non-verified reporting and that this is what led many people to assume Knox was guilty.
This is a very serious charge to be making against Seattle papers and also against the journalists in question."

It doesn't sound like a very serious charge to me. It sounds like Preston claimed that the early local press coverage repeated what the Italian press had reported about the case. What's wrong with that?

Odile/Troll. His name is in barbie's book. Look it up. I'll give you a hint. The initials are the same.

I hope now that there is a general inquiry held by the Italian authorities and that Doug Preston, Steve Shay and Frank Sfarzo (the last one also being a fictitious name) are compelled to provide their evidence in a public manner. The police, too, should be required to provide their evidence so that an informed opinion can be made.

Hiding allegations under the skirts of a respected organization like the CPJ is a cowardly way of challenging the authorities. Besides, wasn't Doug Preston, in the end, investigated for evidence tampering in Italy in the Monster of Florence case?

K

Dear Nina,

My note yesterday to Mr Simon warned him that a fringe group would soon be attacking him and his letter to the President of Italy.

As you can see my predictions have come true. These attacks will continue and rest assured that none of them are concerned about a Free Press or about the brutal treatment of Francesco Szorza aka Frank Sfarzo.

I don't doubt that Frank was attacked at all. His reporting can certainly be found at Perugia Shock for review.

The prosecutor Mignini has certainly been convicted by an Italian court for abuse of office. Mr Preston and Mr Spezi give us all a glimpse into that abusive world. That such abuse continues towards Frank Sfarzo is also certain. He needs your protection and the National Media should be made aware to focus attention to his plight. He has many readers who are truly concerned about his safety.

I want to thank you for fighting for a free press. The job you do is important to all of us...hopefully some day this group attacking you now will realize that your fight includes even them.

Keep up the great work.

My best regards,

Randy N

Odile de Crécy ? Peggy..... just how many names are you going to get to keep commenting as other people upon these boards? This is getting out of line. You have no business deciding what is right or wrong regarding a journalist matter. The need for you to harass at any and all levels is absurd.

Anyone opposing this letter is a nut case, seriously.
I'm impressed at their nuttiness, truly!

By the way Odile. If you think it's not obvious that you're Peggy Ganong, you're fooling no one.

Doug Preston said: "I would be glad to engage in a discussion with "Kermit," and document with evidence his many lies and distortions. I'll do that as soon as "Kermit" is willing to step out of the shadows like an honest human being."

It sounds to me - and to readers in general - that you're stonewalling. BTW, you don't ask the person who uses the screen name "Frank Sfarzo" to step out of the shadows.


Preston said: "Kermit knows who I am and he knows where I live, and he has spent a lot of time posting ... my personal data, and even excerpts from my books to the web, all without my permission."

More unsubstantiated accusations (which seems to be a characteristic in these quarters). You are making false statements.

I know you live in Maine, because you or an interviewer said so. I don't know and I don't care where you live. What personal data on you have I posted? Oh I forgot, I have to identify myself for you to substantiate your free-for-all accusations.

As for using excerpts from your books, the only thing I can think of is that section about the Tibetan monk fondling the American girl's breast in front of the millionaire, pale-skinned FBI agent who speaks a ton of languages ... I've been to Tibet, I've been to Tibetan monasteries, and I can tell you (I told you) that that doesn't really fit in with Tibetan monastical culture. In any case, did that (or any other quote) go beyond "fair use" as set by copyright law? Or do you want to simply silence any criticism? Do you only approve of quoting when the accompanying comment is positive?


Preston said: "Until Kermit stops cowering behind false IP addresses"

Please list any and all IP addresses you have on me (it sounds like you have made an effort to hack me). I use Google mail, which gives a Google server IP address, maybe that confused you. However, right now I'm writing into a webform comment panel. CPJ has my one and only, honest-to-God IP address - if it varies, that's not me, but my ADSL provider. (I trust that CPJ will promise not to release my IP to any of their financial supporters, like Mr. Preston). Once again, Mr. Preston, you make false accusations. Why?

Kermit's ramblings have already been deconstructed at the JREF forum.

His logic is poor and the tone of the letter is insulting to the CPJ. Kermit and Harry Rag are cowards, as others have said, spreading lies and hatred from the safety of anonymity.

'Kermit' has every right to be anonymous, as long as he is posting on blogs or forums.

But once you start doing things like sending letters to organizations attempting to influence their real world decisions, you can't hide behind some ludicrous online ID, expecially one from The Muppet Show, and expect to be taken seriously.

I for one will always have the image in my mind of a comedy frog frantically typing, and i suspect I'm not the only one.

Douglas Preston Wrote:

"I would be glad to engage in a discussion with "Kermit," and document with evidence his many lies and distortions. I'll do that as soon as "Kermit" is willing to step out of the shadows like an honest human being."


I'm sorry Douglas, but that's a complete cop out. If someone genuinely believes they have been lied about then they provide their arguments and evidence to support that claim, irrespective of whether the misrepresentation was made by someone under a pen name or not. If you had such evidence or arguments, you'd have provided them by now, as someone in this thread has already pointed out. Right now, it would appear the emperor has no clothes.

Neither have you answered the question of whether you would demand that the Perugian blogger that you support, Frank Sfarzo who writes under a pseudo name, should publicly come out under his real name. Nor, it would seem, do you have any problem with your supporters, many of whom have joined you in making public attacks against individuals involved in the proseution of Amanda Knox, many of which having done so under fake names or as 'anonymous'. Is it then only a problem when someone is critical of 'you'? Are you special?

Or maybe, your complaint is merely a distraction to move the debate onto Kermit, rather then the actual content of his article concerning you. I think so.

in different places not just journalist are being abused but knowing this kind of cruelty where's the heart?

Let's cut to the quick on this. Kermit's wish to remain anonymous is irrelevant and Mr Preston's responses above are pure sophistry.

As others say it is not enough to accuse Kermit's article of being full of lies and distortions without specifying what these are. I was really expecting something more substantive, both from the CPJ, and from Mr Preston (rather than his hiding behind this veil of Kermit's anonymity). If the CPJ and Mr Preston stand behind everything they write then what is the problem with that? Clearly they are concerned that there is some libelous content.

However, as to the CPJ, I welcome their partial response, as above. It is clear that they have been shaken by the e-mail response that they have received, and by the well researched and documented open letter from Kermit.

I welcome the hyperlink to Kermit's letter in the response above. I suspect that Mr Preston did not see that coming and I detect in that a slight distancing between CPJ and him. Perhaps that explains why Mr Preston now has to jump in with some alacrity on a counterattack centered around his self claimed and untested (in a court of law) reputation (his reputation as a novelist one would not dispute) rather than just address the matters that were raised.

There is something almost surreal about the 'PR Conspiracy' being proselytized to real journalists. Don't any of you realize they must know better? You look ridiculous. It's like trying to sell a perpetual motion device to an engineer.

It seems pretty obvious to me that like Frank Sfarzo, Douglas Preston changed his mind about Mignini, probably because he saw him do it again. Frank had been adamant that Mignini wasn't the problem, it was the police in Perugia, much like it appeared Douglas Preston thought Michele Guiterri was the impetus behind his mistreatment--then Mignini comes up with another crackpot theory and railroads two innocent kids. Would you expect his opinion to stay the same?

Incidentally, many of us who use screennames do so not out of 'cowardice' or because we're not 'real' but because we've found with experience there's some real whack-jobs out there who'll take things beyond the screen and lie to employers, post personal information they find, make harassing calls, send you subscriptions to naughty magazines and the like.

Why bother with that?

CPJ is getting tag-teamed by the same anonymous cast of three or four characters (including Odile)who seem to have a boundless enthusiasm for spreading misinformation. This group seems to have developed a special hatred of late for Douglas Preston. The original Maundy Gregory was an infamous London flim flam artist and that kind of captures the flavor of things.

The suggestion that a tiny (12 person) Seattle firm could hoodwink the press and the international media regarding the Knox-Sollecito case is intellectually embarrassing. If that were true, the Marriott firm would be the most underpaid outfit in all of the United States. Press coverage has become more favorable to Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito over the past year but that has been mainly because of developments on the ground in Italy and because the press has started to exhibit a proper skepticism toward events in Perugia.

What the anonymous CPJ detractors here fail utterly to concede is that CPJ did its homework. The letter was not dictated by anybody but was, rather, the product of thorough research and on-the-record interviews with real persons who were the victims of intimidation efforts. The fact that Francesco Sforza lightheartedly calls himself Frank Sfarzo is irrelevant.

Finally, the suggestion that it is somehow honorable to remain anonymous in these debates is cowardly in the extreme as well as silly. I am who I say I am. You can visit me in beautiful northern Michigan. If you are a civil person of good will I will buy you a cup of coffee.

Paul Smyth
Traverse City, Michigan

"a lot of intimidation and harassment from people supporting Amanda Knox." And what form did any of this claimed abuse take and what evidence is there for any of this? Personally I have seen the opposite far more. Just a casual glimpse at any comment thread anywhere on the internet on the case and not just on YouTube which always seems to attract the worst sort of verbal abuse... and the majority of negativity and the most extreme content is produced by a vociferous subset of those who support guilt... terms of abuse, name-calling, sneering and odd claims are rife from that sector. And it often includes paranoid claims about shadowy organizations and powerful interests behind innocence supporters who work against guilt supporters but for which there is no credible substantiation.

The odd game of reciprocal Molehill expanding and mountain shrinking that certain guilt supporters engage in while imagining they are in danger from innocence supporters is as puzzling now as it was in the beginning. Expanding minor or imagined faults and acts of those supporting innocence into huge wrongs while ignoring or minimizing disturbing messages and acts from guilt supporters in turn. These range from quite unpleasant abuse to threats to "take down" or expose or destroy and even actual attempts to complicate people's private lives on the part of guilt supporters is based in fact. From writing letters to employers to petty things like false reporting on Facebook designed to have innocence supporters accounts disabled to prevent them from contributing to innocence groups there is a clear undeniable pattern of active hostility on their part. And their activities amount to the exact sort of suppression they accuse innocence supporters of doing in turn but for which they provide no tangible proof. Would-be suppressors accusing their targets of worse versions of their own activities and wishes.

As for Frank, his full name is Francesco; Frank is an English nickname version of his first name and his last name just has two letters rearranged. A person using a nickname derived from his actual first name is hardly a sinister ploy to mask a real identity. And as others have said his picture is in the public record and he was at every single court date and was not pretending to be someone else.

There has been ongoing official harassment of him in small ways as well as large and even in court in the presence of others who did nothing. He is the real deal and for others to characterize him as unprofessional or duplicitous for tolerating comments on his blog that some do not like. I would call attention to the fact that every website that has a comments section has disclaimers about not being responsible for content contributed by others and legally speaking the only responsibility would be to remove any that constitute a clear breach of applicable laws... not things that bother someone. And any web administrator has the right to remove anything that he or she deems disruptive or inappropriate. Attempts by some to dictate what should or should not be allowed on another person's website with accusations of favoritism or suppression is in fact an attempt do to that site what they accuse the site of doing.

Andrea Vogt wrote an article in the SeattlePI.com a few months ago titled in part "I was there" implying she was at the murder site. AK was referring to the fact that "I was there" at the apartment of RS, not at the site of the murder. This had already been clarified in the Italian courts. Andrea Vogt's deliberate misrepresentation of this "fact" is just one of many lies that have been generated in this case. There are many more, involving bleach, bloody footprints, staged break ins. British and Italian tabloids played a disgraceful role, e.g. paying Patrick Lumumba 70K for a "story" in which he said AK "had no soul". This is not journalism, and this is not justice. Charges of being against Italian justice or the country are a red herring.

The bottom line is that CPJ came to bat for a person who is a journalist under CPJ's own guidelines. Frank's case is separate from Amanda and Raffaele's, theirs does not fall under CPJ's guidelines.

Kermie's rant is a thinly veiled attempt to draw attention to his agenda for the Knox/Sollecito case. An agenda based in deceit and lies from a man who would not think twice about throwing Kermit into prison on trumped up charges if it suited his purposes.

The fringe group Kermit represents are negative, unhappy people who do not believe that a family has the right to take care of their child.

Imagine that, anonymous internet posters telling you that you cannot protect your children?

It's cruel and completely unrealistic.

Imagine also, please, how YOU would feel if your mail was scattered across your lawn and unknown photogs were posting pix of you and your children and keeping files on you?

Imagine how you would feel answering hundreds of phone calls and knocks on your door for interviews. A stranger standing there intruding.

Imagine being the target of hate groups who hide behind the memory of Meredith Kercher in order to attack anyone who defends Amanda and Raffaele.

Would you not seek help?

That is what Amanda's entire family was forced to do and the media jackals are still circling, 3 1/2 years later.

Marriott is a focus for the media, the "executive assistant at the front desk." A common relief from the intrusion of the international media when one finds oneself in this position. Many have used this tool when dealing with the media. Especially in the US where there are hundreds of media outlets to deal with.

Imagine the US media outlets camped on your lawn. Now add in the European press.

And Bruce is right about the PR Campaign, it is magical. It is magical that nice people from everywhere are speaking out for these innocent students. For Free. No connections to Marriot. Because they are compelled to stand up for what is right.

The bottom line is that Amanda and Raffaele's families have every right to do everything they want to defend their children. And protect their families at home.

Every Right.

Neither Kermit, his ilk, nor CPJ have any bearing on that. Thankfully CPJ realizes this.

I speak for myself, from ringside, but I have no doubt that many people would chime in. We wish that Kermit and the Hate Groups and the Internet Trolls would Go Away.

Let these very nice, normal people take care of their children.

Kalabos Wrote:

"Besides, wasn't Doug Preston, in the end, investigated for evidence tampering in Italy in the Monster of Florence case?"


Yes indeed! Mario Spezi was arrested and Douglas Preston was brought in for questioning by Prosecutor Mignini because a police phone intercept caught them discussing planting evidence at the crime scenes of an ongoing murder enquiry. It would seem this was to try and make the crime scenes fit the theory they were promoting in the book they were writing, The Monster of Florence. The recording of this conversation was played to real journalist Barbie Nadeau, who reported for the Daily Beast that it did indeed sound as though they were plotting to plant evidence at the crime scenes. Strangely, when speaking to the media regarding his questioning by Prosecutor Mignini, Mr Preston always omits that part of the story.

I wonder what the CPJ's policy is regarding 'jounalists' that seek to pervert an ongoing murder enquiry by planting evidence at crime scenes in order to create the story they want? Do such 'jounalists' have the CPJ's support?

Kay Pea said: "The bottom line is that CPJ came to bat for a person who is a journalist under CPJ's own guidelines."

Does the abuse and threats suffered by journalist such as Andrea Vogt, Barbie Nadeau (recently called a yellow journalist by one of the Knox-Mellas dining room invitees on CNN) or Steve Huff not come under the CPJ's guidelines?

The CPJ said it acted in "Frank"'s case due to a tip.

I gave a tip in my open letter that pro-Knox quarters had threatened or abused these journalists. Will the CPJ act? Will they interview those journalists and - contrasting or not their statements - publish an open letter?

KP said: "The fringe group Kermit represents are negative, unhappy people who do not believe that a family has the right to take care of their child."

I believe that persons who are well into adulthood and who have been convicted of murder should serve their time.

KP said: "Imagine also, please, how YOU would feel if your mail was scattered across your lawn and unknown photogs were posting pix of you and your children and keeping files on you?

Imagine how you would feel answering hundreds of phone calls and knocks on your door for interviews ... Imagine being the target of hate groups who hide behind the memory of Meredith Kercher in order to attack anyone who defends Amanda and Raffaele."

Sounds terrible, but I don't know what it has to do with my open letter reply to the CPJ "investigation" which was based only on interviewing the accusers of Mignini.

For the record, I've never scattered anything on anyone's lawn, nor the rest of those actions you described.

KP said: "And Bruce is right about the PR Campaign"

To reply with someone else's quote, David Marriott as the family media secretary is a quaint idea.

Can you ask Marriott's PR firm that when the Knox-Mellas clan appears on big network TV interview shows, what papers or contracts are signed, what explicit or implicit agreements are met regarding questions and content, whether any big networks have ever covered Knox-Mellas international travel expenses, who brings in the US "experts" and pundits who also appear on these shows, who prepares the queue cards for the pundits' comments about this case, which journalists are to be excluded from these shows, what topics are contractually avoided .... etc. etc. etc. Maybe I shouldn't be too surprised about that, maybe it's just part of show business.

More important, please ask who are the "paid and earned media" in this case (see Marriott webpage). That's scary and should be of concern for CPJ.

What is true is that honest, good organisations like CPJ can be duped, not by Marriott, but by the individual self-servers who are out there and part of The Entourage of hangers on in this case.

If Nina or Joel would prefer to go private on this, I wouldn't mind. Meanwhile, I'll keep doing my own investigation of the unsubstantiated accusations against Mr. Mignini, the start of this CPJ hosted debate.

As far as I am concerned, CPJ have lost all credibility by pandering to a tiny clique of Knoxophile fanatics. But no matter. Knox is still in jail, and likely to stay there.


I suggest if CPJ want to restore any credibility, they conduct their own investigation and ask Douglas Preston why on earth he praised Mignini originally, and is criticizing him now. It's a reasonable question and it deserves an answer, as do many other questions in Kermit's excellent post, which CPJ have utterly failed to address.

And once again, Knox is still in jail, and likely to stay there.

@spartaco: I'm afraid you are mistaken. The report by Andrea Vogt referred to the final Supreme Court ruling in the appeals process of Rudy Guede. In fact, that report does state the judges' view that "I was there" in fact referred to the scene of the murder. You may disagree with the judges' view but the reporter is not at fault for reporting on it. That's called shooting the messenger. As for the other mistakes you allege in reporting, you would need to tie them to this specific journalist in order for your allegations to have any weight.

@KP: Media jackals circling? Aren't members of the media the very people CPJ seeks to protect, defending their right to investigate and report? And you're calling them jackals?

@ Michael Becker: "There has been ongoing official harassment of him in small ways as well as large and even in court in the presence of others who did nothing."

Can you provide exact details of this ongoing "official" harassment so that we have some way of assessing the accuracy of your claim?

Who are these "others" in the court room who allegedly witnessed this ongoing harassment and did nothing? Can you name them and also cite your source for their alleged inaction?

Kermit, thank you for destroying your credibility. Barbie gets called a yellow journalist is on the same level as someone who was attacked by police. Ya, I guess there's no difference......

With respect to @Odile, you have to realize this poster is actually a woman named "Peggy Ganong" who is friends with Andrea Vogt, and so tries to defend her in every comment section. She has serious issues.

One thing I'd like to add to this discussion is a note of praise for Frank Sfarzo. He has been on the front lines almost every day, reporting and writing on the case at great personal risk to himself, in the face of verbal threats, false criminal charges, and even physical abuse by the authorities. Unlike many of the anonymous posters in this comment section, he is someone who does not hide his identity. His real name, Address and identity is known to all (including the authorities). I think he is an unusually courageous man and I admire him greatly for what he has done.

It is entirely appropriate that CPJ has supported his right to blog and report on the case. Certain commentators in this thread seem to have lost sight of what is really at stake here: the right of journalists like Frank Sfarzo and others to speak and write freely without fear of official retribution. This should not be controversial. Italy's constitution guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

@Micheal - you are obtuse. Being investigate and convicted of evidence tampering are two very distinct scenarios. Neither Preston nor Spezi were ever convicted of any wrongdoing in the Monster of Florence trials or the AK/RS trial. More propaganda from the TJMK and PMF sites. We all challenge you to provide any substantive documentation to prove those claims. I have looked every time this has come into the conversation, and cannot find one shred of proof to support your claim.

@Kermit - Your arguments are sour grapes and are based on conjecture and already refuted evidence. Because CPJ vetted the original claims, found merit and have acted based on their own journalistic sensibilities, you are offended that it's "not fair". Well boo hoo.

@Odile - to characterize Vogt and Nadeau as credible is laughable. They are both aligned with TJMK and PMF, consistently plagerize material that is or has been debunked, yet you claim in their journalistic integrity. For the love of God, please stop w/the falsehoods.

Lastly, all of you are regular pundits and are as noted by several others, as the moderators or contributors of both TJMK and PMF, and run w/the likes of Harry Rag/The Machine, Peter Quennell, Maundy, et al. You are well known guilters, and each time you wax poetic for your own self indulgence, you show the world just how misguided you all are.

In a month, the DNA results will be published the world will see the independent forensic results for ourselves. To cry foul because CPJ vetted and exercised their charter is just ridiculous.

Odile, come on, reporting the musings of a judge on another case in the way that Andrea did in that article was very misleading. What we are talking about is responsible, well thought out journalism, that thinks through the evidence and the facts, rather than just regurgitating what a very problematic judge and prosecutor. Which is what has happened in this case, which is why CPJ should get involved, to protect the journalists or bloggers who are not towing the party line. The source of the bleach and bloody footprint fabrications is the same one who "heard" a conspiracy to plant evidence on Mignini's wiretap. Don't forget he's been convicted for his own judicial system for doing this, it's called abuse of power. After reading her book the fact is I don't trust her as a reporter and would like to see the transcript for myself.

I would like to thank CPJ for having the bravery to make a stand against the intimidation tactics used by the Perugian prosecution and their mignions, some of whom have obviously attempted here to brow-beat and further, distance themselves from their more invasive practices.

I have read very thinly veiled death threats to Bruce Fisher on one of Kermit's favorite sites at least three times over some months...Peter Quennell and company have on numerous occasions used words like 'lethal' in reference to what could be resulting to Bruce for his speaking out against the injustice being done to Amanda. The same site's posters, often Quennell, attempt to bully any dissent from their assertions with threats of 'calunnia' charges and the like.

I also find it bizarre that Kermit seems to think that Amanda's parents do not have the right to grant interviews to whomever they please, or not. That is their right to their own speech, just as Frank has his own right to free speech.

Is anyone criticizing CPJ ready to accuse an official in the US of having harassed, intimidated, or physically violating Andrea Voight or Barbie Nadeau? Have the cops come to their homes and beaten them?

Trying to make a parallel out of some supposed 'attacks' or criticisms of these women (or anti-Amanda bloggers or supporters) is to make a joke out of the concept of a free press. One is (allegedly) criticism; the other involves powers of the state physically attacking and violating the rights of a citizen.

I mention the implication of death threats to Bruce Fisher because it has disturbed me and seems consistent with the pro-prosecution's whole mindset.

But attacks on Frank like the Perugian police have waged are still squarely in an overt and definite category of outrageous abuse of a citizen and journalist.

Guys, If Andrea or Barbie think their rights are being trampled, well they are free to seek help. No one is stopping them.

Frank on the other hand, as well as Mario and Doug, had rights trampled by the police. They were threatened with imprisonment or were actually imprisoned. That was cause enough for CPJ to speak out and it is appreciated that they did.

Police or another journalist complaining about me? I'll take the journalist, thank you. Andrea and Barbie are not in any danger, except for hurt feelings.

As for Marriott? The actions of the media jackals are directly responsible for the hiring of this firm. The press's behavior was the issue, not how the families chose to deal with the unruly press.

Plus not a single one of the innocence supporters are paid by Marriott. We ALL operate freely. No one is being told what to say or how to say it or when to say it.

So Big Whoop on your woo woo "PR Campaign."

And for "contracts, etc", I don't care. I do not need the day-to-day spelled out because I have a firm grasp on how businesses push paper around the office. And any contractual obligations are between Marriott and their clients. It's none of our business.

And while we are at it, Kermie, if you are SO Concerned, why don't YOU ask?

If Marriott can get networks to cover travel or other costs, I say Go For It. This case is financially crippling and I'm sure you are all cackling over that fact right now because I know how you love to inflict pain and shame.

But I think any help the family can get is a good thing. If Marriott is able to get that kind of help, then they are worth the fee.

The prosecution is funded by the Italian Taxpayers, so they are not worried about where the next Euro is coming from. The Knox and Sollecito families do not have that convenience.

And you are all assuming that CPJ is too sophomoric to investigate an issue before putting their stamp of approval on it. Oh My, IMHO, they are not the dumb ones, it is the silly naysayers in the commentary who think CPJ is to naive to investigate. It is actually funny that any of you would think that. *rolling eyes* We have had a great deal of hilarity reading your smug comments. Thank you very much!

And lastly, Oddie, until you have had the experience of watching a media jackal drool, trying to use you to get at your friend, you really have no idea what or who you are defending. Jackal is an apt and telling and perfect description.

CPJ is well aware of the difference between a legit news agency and some jackal. And they are also aware that the two can be interchanged depending upon the situation or scoop. Such is the nature of the beast.

What is pathetic are the continual attempts of Guilters to demean any and all persons and entities remotely associated with this sad and tragic case. That said Guilters are willing to take it into realms where it does not belong, simply to push their agendas.

Kermit's letter is that sort of agenda.

CPJ's stance is about Frank's treatment by the police and Kermit used it to pontificate his stance on the Knox/Sollecito case.

Everyone is aware that those are two entirely different issues, why aren't you?

Douglas Preston Wrote:

"One thing I'd like to add to this discussion is a note of praise for Frank Sfarzo. "

What, that same Frank Sfarzo that is actually a false name? Yet you want to prause Frank Sfarzo yet condemn Kermit for not using his real name?


"He has been on the front lines almost every day,"

Just like all the other journalists that have have been reporting on the case from Perigua then...which I might add, you are not one of.

"reporting and writing on the case at great personal risk to himself, in the face of verbal threats, false criminal charges, and even physical abuse by the authorities."

What personal risk is that then? We have no evidence at all of any of this, only claims made by Frank Sfarzo, yourself and your diciples. In fact, according to what I have heard, Sfarzo found himself in trouble with police due to a matter completely unrelated to this case. And we've all had verbal threats Douglas, why, I even remember you yourself threating Harry Rag that you were hiring hackers to hack his computer, although you made that in writing rather then verbally. So, you're quite right, there have been a lot of threats flying around.

"Unlike many of the anonymous posters in this comment section, he is someone who does not hide his identity. His real name, Address and identity is known to all (including the authorities)."

Yep, known to all except the public. It doesn't matter a jot if the police or Italian authorities know his name, he's still an anonymous blogger. If you were to argue otherwise, then we could equally say Kermit isn't anonymous since his friends, family and ISP know who he is...right?


Eoman Wrote:

"@Micheal - you are obtuse. Being investigate and convicted of evidence tampering are two very distinct scenarios. Neither Preston nor Spezi were ever convicted of any wrongdoing in the Monster of Florence trials or the AK/RS trial."

I see, it's only relevant if they're convicted? I'm sorry, it doesn't work like that. The fact there was evidence against them and the police were given just cause to investigate them for attempting/conspiracy to corrupt an ongoing murder investigation is highly relevent. It is also highly relevent that Preston never relays this fact to the media when he endlessly spins his yatn anout being persecuted by the Italian authorities and his silence on this in this thread is deafening. I also find it highly hypocritical of you to try and hide Preston behind the skirts of a court room conviction (or lack thereof) when you have all shown nothing but contempt for the Italian justice system and 'had' Preston received such a conviction in an Italian court uoi would be dismissing such a conviction out of hand, just as you wave away the comviction of Amanda Knox as invalid and so meaningless. Frankly, it's a bit rich.

As for never having seen a 'shred of proof' to support my statements, I can only guess that you completely missed the excellent report by Barbie Nadeau in the Daily Beast. I also don't see Douglas Preston here rushing to deny it, do you?

@ Roman

I find both Vogt and Nadeau to be credible precisely because they are not allied with any side and also because they have resisted the pressure and the spin from the PR machine. I can imagine this has not endeared them to the family and supporters of Amanda Knox, but this does not hurt their credibility. On the contrary. I don't what falsehoods you are referring to, but I see that you accuse both journalists of plagiarism. What has either one plagiarized?

Because of the high traffic on this entry, there may be a delay in the publishing of comments. Thanks.

@ Doug Preston

The freedom to write freely without fear of official retribution is a value we all share. And no one asking questions here has lost sight of it. The context of the alleged violation in this particular case is murky and - given your ties to the FOA, your issues with the prosecutor, Frank Sfarzo's relationship to the FOA and your relationship to the CPJ - we the people have the right to inquire. Our right of inquiry extends to the press itself. There are valid reasons to question the path that leads from Frank Sfarzo to the CPJ, and to ask what your own role and motives might be. Your desire to thwart this inquiry is duly noted. I find it very troubling.

One thing is very clear from this "discussion": Preston and "Frank Sfarzo and "Bruce Fisher and their fellow Knoxophiles are treating those who believe Knox was correctly convicted in EXACTLY the same way that THEY CLAIM Knox was treated.

It's rank hypocrisy of the first water, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Is Mignini involved in the appeals of Amanda Knox & Rafaelle Sollecito? From what I observed & read, out of Prosecutors Manuela Comodi and Giuliano Mignini Comodi was the harsher & more effective in questioning Knox in court. Mignini is getting a bad rap when even without him Comodi would have even more effectively successfully prosecuted all 3 convicted sex killers, Guede, Sollecito & Knox. Frank seems like a spineless wuss.

Frank is a Perugia-based investigative reporter. His identity is not in question.

Frank's pen name is Frank Sfarzo. His real name is Francesco "Frank" Sforza. This information appears in Murder In Italy. In that book he also describes why he chose a pen name, ala Mark Twain.

If anyone has questions about Frank, just email [email protected]

Kay Pea,

You've said it all and you've said it well. This mob makes their snide, sneering comments on every story about this case. There are never any new facts; simply the intention to get everyone involved and fighting and name-calling-that's all they do and it's an immensely irritating time-waster.

The best way to shut down immature bullies is to not respond to them at all.I think by constantly responding to their outlandish remarks through which they hope to get more attention is to not give it to them. They obviously have some secret vendetta against the Knox family (you notice they never mention Raffaele's family)and they have no interest in justice or love of Meredith who, I am sure would be disgusted by this mob if what I've read about her was true.

Their method is to put everyone else on the defensive and waste their time defending their positions. They make accusations and sit back at their leisure and wait for "the accused" to do all the work-and waste all their time defending themselves.It takes no time to accuse, but alot of effort and thought to defend.

Time to smarten-up and stonewall this mob because it's an easy game for the attackers to win. But if no-one responds, they lose; you can't fight a war if there's no-one on the other side.

As far as this story goes I think it's a first positive step that there's a group formed that can fight for the right of free press by exposing those who would curtail it. What has been done to journalists all over the world who have gone against the powers in their country is an enormous outrage and nothing will stop the outrage but the knowledge that it's happening-something I really didn't know until this group started airing the truth.You can't have justice without the truth being able to be told without fear of retribution.

Frank Sfarzo is referred by CPJ in their open letter as a local freelance reporter. It is my understanding that Frank Sfarzo doesn't gain a living by writing articles. Why is he described then as a freelance reporter?

He mostly got himself into hot water not for "being on the front lines every day" like Doug Preston put it, but for approving threatening and harassing comments on his blog together with denigrating comments directed towards the Kercher family. He himself called real journalists like Andrea Vogt "unprofessional" on his blog. Coming from a blogger with no credentials whatsoever!

Again all the pro ak posters here refuse to do anything but cast insults at a legitimate and truthful complaint of cpj. You all expose yuorselfs, no one else has to.

charles norris May 1, 2011 9:40:08 AM ET

I do wish at least ONE of the Knox supporters would at least try to answer the points raised by Kermit's exhaustive post, instead of just throwing insults at anyone who dares to take issue with them or their agenda.

Michael said:

"I see, it's only relevant if they're convicted? I'm sorry, it doesn't work like that."

This from the bunch that continually states that because Knox is a "convicted murderess", people who defend her are evil or delusional. And then they say that Mignini is not guilty of the charges filed against him, because in Italy you are considered innocent until convicted on appeal. But Knox has not yet been convicted on appeal, but they don't give her the same treatment, because, of course, it does not fit thier agenda. The circular logic goes on and on.

And yes, charges are only relevant if the person is convicted. Otherwise, anyone can continue to smear people just by charging them with things. This protects us from potentially corrupt individuals and governments. It is why organizations like the CPJ exist, and why people need to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

The point of the CPJ is that there is a demostrated pattern of authorities in this part of Italy filing charges against writers of all sorts that they don't agree with, in order to silence them. The issue is free speach, not if the person is a blogger, or what newspaper they work for. We could argue all day about Nadeau or Vogt being more legitimate journalists than others like Dempsey and Sfarzo, but the point is that none of the above should be subject to having charges brought against them with a motive to silence them.

I've donated to the CPJ in the past, but I'm afraid that I have to agree that it ill behooves the CPJ to recognize "Frank Safarzo" as worthy of its assistance.

"Frank Safarzo" is a 'stage name' - this man is not writing under his real name.

He is a rank amateur with poor writing skills, no credentials and no ties to any legitimate news agency.

He has been photographed with the accused's parents (who have admitted to spending vast sums on a bi-continental PR campaign) and writes as an advocate for Knox rather than as a neutral, fair and balanced journalist.

He is covering proceedings that occurred in OPEN court - legitimate news agencies from around the globe have been on the scene, and in the courtroom from Day 1 - and he has been freely attacking (arguably defaming) the Italian authorities for over 3 years in a free and democratic G8 nation.

I'm shocked that the CPJ has been duped by this rather unsophisticated attempt to free ride in its good name and, unless and until the CPJ reverses its position, I will not be making further donations.

@anonymous Some strange criticism from someone not using their name. ... Kind of like Kermit. Hard to believe you were really a CPJ donor if you think only "legitimate" reporting should be defended.

@dougm

"The point of the CPJ is that there is a demostrated pattern of authorities in this part of Italy filing charges against writers of all sorts that they don't agree with, in order to silence them."

It hasn't been demonstrated that there is a pattern to begin with. Not all journalists who have voiced their concerns about the investigation have been raided by police. It begs the question if Frank Sfarzo's story is true.

Considering Frank Sfarzo's ties to the FOA, it is evident that he is the one trying to exercise pressure in order to get a free pass for whatever he's done. Maybe this is a good time for him to focus on his own shortcomings.

@M2280208 --

The demonstrated pattern I referred to exists, with or without any indimidation of Sfarzo. This is not the first time that this organization has raised the question. From what I can tell, the people objecting to the CPJ letter are less concerned about the true facts of the Perugian PM's behavior, because they see this behavior as acceptable against those they disagree with.

@dougm

Reporting should be based on facts, not fiction.

If you are interested in facts as much as I am, you should be looking for proof that Doug Preston's and Frank Sfarzo's accusations against the Italian authorities are truthful and based on facts. The only legitimation they seem to have so far is that they convinced the CPJ to write an open letter. Not much of a proof for anything if you ask me.

It is surprising that Frank Sfarzo has still not elaborated either on the harassment he has allegedly suffered nor the details of his interviews with CPJ on his blog:

http://perugia-shock.blogspot.com/

In fact, he appears to not even know about the CPJ open letter filed in his name (or rather his assumed name) although his blog is filled with weekly updates on events surrounding the Meredith Kercher murder case.

Is it possible that nobody has even advised him that his name is being used?

It is discouraging but not surprising to find "Anonymous" and his allies spreading lies and misinformation. Frank Sfarzo's real name is Francesco Sforza as anyone who has been following the case closely would know. There has been absolutely to attempt to deceive. He was a credentialed reporter at the trial and, in my view, one of the best. He was the only reporter writing in English who was at the Knox-Sollecito trial every day and he was one of the very few who actually listened to the defense and did additional investigative reporting on his own. He routinely uncovered important information that other reporters flat out missed. Indeed, it was his diligence and skill that made him a target.

Let us not beat around the bush here. Mignini and his minions have repeatedly shown a willingness to use the full power of the state to crush anyone who questions their arguments and theories. The assaults against Mario Spezi and Frank Sfarzo have been particularly vicious, but as the CPJ investigation clearly demonstrated, a good number of other writers and journalists were targets as well.

Again, it is important to note that Mignini's reign of terror did not just target journalists. Amanda Knox faces additional charges for saying in court that she was lightly cuffed during an unrecorded all night interrogation. Her parents face charges for saying they believed her. Amanda's Knox's lawyers and those of her co-defendant also face charges for saying things not to Mignini's liking.

This is as clear a case of trying to criminalize legitimate dissent as anyone of us is likely to see. How anyone could characterize all this as normal or acceptable behavior is utterly beyond me.

Paul Smyth
Traverse City, Michigan

"Amanda Knox faces additional charges for saying in court that she was lightly cuffed during an unrecorded all night interrogation. Her parents face charges for saying they believed her. Amanda's Knox's lawyers and those of her co-defendant also face charges for saying things not to Mignini's liking."

Why didn't she file a complaint? The first version was that she was "beaten" and "abused" and that "her human rights were violated". Her lawyers said that she was never hit and in court she again changed her mind and said she was cuffed on the back of her head twice. Her defence consisted in lies that have been debunked one by one during the trial. She couldn't identify the officer who hit her, even though her family claims they were together for hours and hours of interviews. Truth is, she was only interviewed for a short time and not for 50 and more hours like Curt Knox claims.


"This is as clear a case of trying to criminalize legitimate dissent as anyone of us is likely to see. How anyone could characterize all this as normal or acceptable behavior is utterly beyond me."

If someone would accuse you of rape, would you like these claim to be backed up with proof or do you think it is "legitimate" for everyone to throw accusations around, smearing your name and damaging your reputation? Guiliano Mignini has been called "mentally unstable", "crazy", "abusive" and "corrupt". He is simply putting the record straight and he is in his right to do so.

Sigh. Can't you all find a way to disagree respectfully?

Dear Nina Ognianova,

Well, it appears you were correct in your investigation of the misconduct in Perugia Italy.

It seems that today Prosecutor Mignini has had Frank Szarzo's blog "Perugia Shock" seized...shut down, closed, kaput!

It is hard to believe that such things can happen in a country that claims to be a Democracy.

Today's silencing of the free press in Italy puts an exclamation point on the fact that your original investigation into this matter was correct. No other proof is needed that corruption and pressure by Italian court officers and police are being used to stop unfavorable reporting.

Mignini has accused Frank of defamation through the press. It is my understanding that Mignini complained to Google to have Perugia Shock shut down.

This violation of freedom of the press must be brought to the attention of the major media as freedom itself is now under attack in Italy.

Please take note that the Italian government has asked Google to remove Frank Sfarzo's Prugia-Shock blog, and Google has complied and done so.

I'm rather stunned that a company with a supposed motto "Don't be Evil" is helping to silence journalists who report on a corrupt government intentionally sending innocent people to prison. Has Google abandoned this motto?

I believe that both Italy and Google are worthy of a fresh round of fresh criticism over this latest act.

ILE has now successfully shut down Frank's website. This is terrible for all of us but especially for the Italian people. Obviously freedom of expression is not allowed in Italy.

On May 10, Frank Sfarzo's blog site was shut down by Google, following orders from a Florence court.

Will CPJ investigate?

This is addressed to Nina Orgianova:
"Our letter was based on firsthand interviews with subjects who were directly affected by Perugia authorities' actions in retaliation for their reporting or published comments in relation to the Kercher case"
Did you, or did you not "interview at first hand" the person against whom the accusations are being made, Prosecutor Mignini?
Did you attempt to get corroborating evidence from neutral parties or are you only accepting the word of advocacy 'journalists' from a well-funded PR campaign?
Given CPJ's past history of failing to adequately protest the killing of real journalists during the Kosovo and Iraq/Afghanistan conflict, that your failure to answer these questions only serves to undermine your organization's own credibility?

I think the people commenting here on both sides need to step back and ask themselves why they are getting so involved in this case. From the impression that a casual reader of this story would get from the comments, the anti-Knox group seems to have presented a well researched piece only to have the other side respond with insults and silly remarks refering to blog wars elsewhere that won't interest the casual observer/joe public. Anyone hoping to change the mind of the Italian legal people regarding this blogger is going to be disappointed if they continue in this fashion. It's all very childish and frankly embarrassing that Americans seem to think that they will get their way if they stamp their feet hard enough.

@CPJ: I refer you to the case of Sami al Haj, the Al-Jazeera cameraman who was actually held for six years in Guantanamo Bay Prison under conditions that permanently damaged his health. Yet in his case, you published ambiguous, neutral reports which gave US statements he was involved in terrorism equal weight with his protestations of innocence
http://www.cpj.org/reports/2006/10/prisoner.php and ask why you never saw fit to send a similar letter to the President of the United States:
"We ask you to ensure that the politically motivated detention of Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al- Haj is immediately scrapped"

"It's all very childish and frankly embarrassing that Americans seem to think that they will get their way if they stamp their feet hard enough."

The "childish" and "frankly embarrassing" aspect of this case is that the nationalistic undertones have completely obscured the pursuit of justice for Meredith Kercher... If Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito murdered Meredith Kercher, they both should be prosecuted and punished by the Italian judicial system... Just as Joran van der Sloot should be brought to justice in Peru after his own country failed to do so... To any HUMAN BEING, the fact that Amanda Knox is American, Raffaele Sollecito is Italian and Meredith Kercher was British should have no relevance whatsoever...

Instead, this case is all about stringing up an American regardless of guilt or innocence as evidenced by the aforementioned comment... Even if it means a young Italian man spends the nest quarter century in prison for a crime may not have committed...

Very sad... Very childish... And very embarrassing for us all as human beings...