It's OK to call Venetians 'drunks', says Italy's top court

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Italy's Court of Cassation ruled the comments did not constitute defamation or racial hatred. Photo: Davide Blaikie/Flickr
10:54 CEST+02:00
Italy's top court has cleared a photographer of defamation and racial hatred charges after he called the inhabitants of the Veneto region "a population of drunks".

Olivero Toscani, an iconic photographer who has shot high-profile campaigns for the clothes chain Benetton, made the comments while speaking on the radio show 'La Zanzara' in February 2015, Corriere reported.

Toscani, from the neighbouring region of Lombardy, ruffled feathers by calling the Venetians “ancestral alcoholics,” adding that “it's not their fault if they were born in that place – but it's their destiny.”

Toscani offended many Venetians with his comments last year. Photo Dieter Nagl/AFP

His remarks are based on the long-standing stereotype that Venetians love nothing more than getting drunk.

Toscani's comments offended many Venetian listeners, four of whom attempted to bring charges of defamation and racial hatred against him.

After a lower court in Venice rejected the charges last July, the four plaintiffs pursued their appeal at the highest court. Earlier this week, the Court of Cassation dismissed the appeal, ruling that the comments were too general to be seen as defamatory.

“In defining Venetians' as drunkards, Toscani made very general statements based on stereotypes and clichés about a specific area of the country,” the court said in its ruling.

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Judges said the comments could not qualify for defamation as they made no reference to any "specific, identifiable figures".

They also rejected the claims that the charges could constitute as racial hatred as they did not discriminate against a group of people "on the grounds of their nationality, ethnicity, or religion". 

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