The Vatican should drop an imminent trial of two Italian journalists who published stolen confidential documents in new exposes of graft and financial mismanagement at the Holy See, a Vienna-based watchdog said Monday.
"Journalists must be free to report on issues of public interests and to protect their confidential sources,” the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)'s media freedom envoy Dunja Mijatovic said.
"I call on the authorities not to proceed with the charges and protect journalists’ rights in accordance with OSCE commitments,” Mijatovic added.
The Holy See is one of the 57 members of OSCE, a Vienna-based European security and democracy watchdog.
The Vatican announced on Saturday it would try the two journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, who both published tell-all books this month accusing some Vatican prelates of living in luxury and of misconduct while resisting Pope Francis' drive to clean up Vatican finances.
"Tomorrow I will be attend the Vatican hearing: we shall try and see if we will have access to the all the necessary means to defend ourselves," Fittipaldi told Adnkronos on Monday.
"To give you an idea, I don't yet have all the documents I need."
In a letter to Italian daily La Repubblica, Fittipaldi announced he would attend the first hearing of the Vatican trial, which he denounced has "illiberal."
"Freedom of information is on trial," Nuzzi, said Monday on Twitter, announcing that he too would be present at Tuesday's hearing.
Fittipaldi and Nuzzi are being tried with three other people who allegedly supplied them with information: Vatican prelate Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda, his former Italian aide Nicola Maio and Italian PR consultant Francesca Chaouqui, the Vatican said on Saturday.
Nuzzi, Fittipaldi, Chaouqui, Vallejo Balda and Maio were charged with “illegally procuring and successively revealing information and documents concerning the fundamental interests of the Holy See and the state,” Vatican said.
Nuzzi and Fittipaldi risk up to 10 yeas imprisonment if convicted while Vallejo Balda, Chaouqui and Maio, who are also charged with criminal conspiracy, and risk up to 10 years' imprisonment.
During questioning on 16 November, Fittipaldi reportedly refused to reveal confidential sources for his new book.
The scandal, dubbed VatiLeaks 2, has revived painful memories of the first VatiLeaks scandal in 2012 when Pope Benedict XVI's butler was convicted on charges he supplied Nuzzi with stolen private papal correspondence for his earlier Vatican expose, the best-selling His Holiness.