The Italian town of Amatrice is suing French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for depicting earthquake victims as pasta dishes.
Amatrice, the home of “amatriciana’ pasta sauce was flattened in August by a deadly quake.
One cartoon, entitled “Earthquake Italian Style” captioned drawings of a bloodied and bandaged man “Penne in tomato sauce”, a scratched and swollen woman “Penne au gratin”, and a collapsed building with blood and feet emerging from it “Lasagne”.
After Italians responded angrily, the magazine, famed for its provocative, taboo-busting cartoons, published a second one, showing a person half-buried under rubble saying: “Italians … it’s not Charlie Hebdo who built your homes, it’s the Mafia!”
The construction sector in Italy has long been plagued by inattention to regulations, and both regular building work and post-disaster reconstruction has at times been infiltrated by organised crime.
Among the buildings that collapsed was an elementary school that was supposed to have been upgraded to modern anti-quake norms four years ago. The National Anti-Corruption Agency was looking into how the contract for that work was awarded.
Freedom to offend?
Many Italians are furious over the cartoons, despite their prime minister marching in support of press freedom alongside a host of world leaders following last year’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s Paris headquarters.
“Both Amatrice and all Italy have been offended,” pointed out Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi. “We’re preparing the paperwork and through the consulate we’ll sue them in France as well. In case we win, the funds will be used for reconstruction or given to needy families.”
Following the attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s offices, the UK’s then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that in a free society people have the right to offend each other. He said we have no right not to be offended.
US Secretary of State John Kerry also spoke out, saying that free expression and a free press are universal values that can be attacked but never eradicated.
The quake in the central Apennines Mountain region, claimed nearly 300 lives, injured hundreds of people and left thousands of residents homeless when their towns and villages were destroyed.
Amatrice was the town hardest-hit by the tremor on August 24.
230 bodies were found in the debris.