Amanda Knox trial blogger silenced by Google


Amanda Knox, center, is accompanied by penitentiary police officers as she leaves the court after a final hearing before the verdict, in Perugia, Italy, Dec. 4, 2009, in which she was convicted of murder. (Pier Paolocito/AP)

Despite the media frenzy around the murder trial of Amanda Knox, convicted in 2009 for murdering her roommate in Italy, only one Web site covered every hearing of the trial — Perugia Shock. It was also the only Italian blog written in English.

Journalist Frank Sfarzo, who created Perugia Shock in 2007 just days after the murder, often wrote searing critiques on the blog of the head prosecutor on the case, Giuliano Mignini, responsible for putting Knox behind bars.

In February Mignini, who is known for harassing journalists who get too close to his investigations, filed a lawsuit against Perugia Shock for “defamation, carried out by means of a Web site.”

Last week, the West Seattle Herald reported that Google responded to Mignini’s suit by taking the Perugia Shock blog, which was on Blogger, offline.

When reached for comment, a Google spokesperson said:

After receiving an Italian court order, we have been forced to take down this blog. In an effort to protect free expression, we take care to narrow all court takedown orders. Unfortunately, in this case, we would face criminal noncompliance charges if we refuse to comply.

But like most things on the Internet, the blog has been impossible to erase entirely. The Perugia Shock archive can still be read using the cache copy address. And the blog has started again at a different site here. A note on the new Wordpress blog reads:

“Frank Sfarzo’s reporting must not be silenced. This blog will continue to be the voice of truth and justice.”

Knox’s conviction has been controversial because of conduct of the police investigation and prosecution and coverage in the media. Knox said she had been illegally interrogated by police into giving a confession, and even struck in the head. The prosecution’s two main pieces of physical evidence against Knox were disputed.

The media latched on to the juicy story of a party girl who allegedly stabbed her roommate to death after she refused to take part in a sex game, turning the trial into such a media circus that it
was dubbed “The Amanda Show.

In 2010, when Mignini was given a prison sentence for “abuse of office” in a separate murder investigation, the Knox defense team argued his sentence could be grounds for an appeal.

Mignini isn’t the only one to push back on Sfarzo for covering the Knox trial. Sfarzo says that during the past four years, he has been kicked by a cop, brutally beaten by five officers, spent a night in jail, and charged with assault.

Last month, the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote an open letter to the president of Italy, saying they were “deeply concerned about local authorities’ harassment of journalists...and by the manifest intolerance to criticism displayed by Perugia Public Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini....Of the cases that have come to CPJ’s attention, one stands out.” That case is Frank Sfarzo’s.

Sfarzo’s treatment is also being compared to the earlier case of Mario Spezi — a journalist who covered the Monster of Florence murders that took place from the 1960s-1980s — who was jailed after running afoul of Mignini.

Last week, CPJ called on authorities to drop what they called a “trumped-up defamation lawsuit” against Perugia Shock.

Italy recently fell back into the “partly free” speech category, according to Freedom House, because of limitations by courts and libel laws, and increased intimidation of journalists.

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