5. About the communication and the expert meeting output: part 2 (M. Stucchi and G. Cavallo)

The main episodes of communication AFTER the 31 March 2009 meeting

We come back to this issue, because we feel that it is crucial for understanding the real, possible impact of the meeting on the citizen. Many of those who commented on the trial are dealing with second hand sources, such as the Motivation of the sentence (yes, it is not an objective source, because the judge is only supposed to outline the logical procedure which led to his sentence. He is not requested to produce any contrary evidence, or the objections of the Defence he could not convincingly answer), or newspapers (same problem), or papers, which often provide just an interpretation of facts. So, there is a general tendency to state that there was a problem of communication from the CGR. Let us have a look to it.

After the meeting there were four episodes of communication:

1) 31 March, after the meeting – Press conference of D. Stati (Regional Assessor to Civil Protection, host of the meeting); M. Cialente, Mayor of L’Aquila; F. Barberi (Chairman of the CGR); B. De Bernardinis (deputy director of the National Civil Protection). Boschi and Selvaggi had not been invited; Eva did not attend; Dolce and Calvi attended sitting with the public.

It is not known whether some local TV broadcast the conference: probably not, or at most a few words only, extracted from the context (more solito), were broadcasted. During the first trial, only the video record of the press conference was available, no audio !. [see the note 1 below]

2) 31 March, after the meeting. Interview to F. Barberi, by the local TV “Abruzzo24ore”. The Italian full text is reported in the Motivation (http://tegris2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/motivazioni-sentenza.pdf). Here we summarize:

First question: “is it possible to forecast earthquakes?” Barberi answers that it is not

Second question: “so what about the investigator who forecasts the earthquakes [Giuliani]? A hoax?”. Barberi answers that a good investigator has to publish his results on scientific journals, to sent them to Civil Protection, etc.

Third question: “so what is the seismic risk at L’Aquila”? Barberi answers that this was discussed in the meeting…..that earthquake swarms rarely end up in a large earthquake….but this does not allow to say that there a strong earthquake can be excluded.

3) 31 March, after the meeting. Interview to B. De Bernardinis by local TV “TV Uno”. The Italian full text is reported in the Motivation (http://tegris2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/motivazioni-sentenza.pdf). Here we summarize:

De Bernardinis says “First of all, we are struggling hard, Barberi first and Bertolaso after him, to mitigate the vulnerability of the building. Next, at this stage it is not possible to make any forecast on historical o statistical basis…..Finally, the organization of the Civil Protection at national and local level is very important.”

Journalist. “you were talking of acceleration and intensities. How can you, on that basis, plan [sic] a seismic event, without obviously forecasting it, after the hoaxes of the recent days?”

De Bernardinis says: “this is to be asked to the CGR members, I am an officer. But I can say that we made progress on the understanding of the earthquake parameters and behaviour of the buildings

Journalist “which is the situation of the building seismic safety at L’Aquila?”

De Bernardinis: (the answer is not very clear). Says that with the current shaking there was some damage. Earthquake resistance should be improved, anyhow.

Journalist: “How many buildings, schools etc. can be considered seismic safe?”

De Bernardinis: This is to be asked to the experts [!]. What I can say is that we are doing our best to improve seismic safety everywhere in Italy, mostly for schools.


4) 31 March, after the meeting. Interview to M. Cialente, Mayor of L’Aquila, by local TV “Abruzzo24ore”. The Italian full text is reported in the Motivation (http://tegris2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/motivazioni-sentenza.pdf). Here we summarize:

Journalist: “which is the output of this important meeting?

Cialente: First I have to thank the Civil Protection, the CGR, the Assessor Stati. The conclusion is that we cannot predict earthquakes and we cannot foresee their evolution. The swarm consists of many earthquakes that we feel, although damage to buildings is little. Now we will take care of getting funding for the emergency

Journalist: “the students of the “De Amici” school [closed] will be moved?”

Cialente: we have started considering varied options in order to minimize the impact on families

Journalist: “let’s come back to the alert. Let’s imagine that someone phones to you introducing himself as a scientist, saying that in about eight hours there will be a devastating earthquake at L’Aquila. Nobody would like to stand in your shoes, then…”

Cialente: I cannot answer that there will not an earthquake. I would like it would be possible…

Journalist: “of course not, just to explain….”

Cialente: yes, we are alone when taking decisions. Sometimes concerning the snow, we can close a school. But we are in touch with the Civil Protection. We cannot predict earthquakes, the snow may be, but earthquake not.

There was also an interview released by Ms Stati, Assessor to Regional Civil Protection, which is not mentioned at this point of the Motivation. Again, she stressed that nobody could tell whether there will be a major earthquake or not, that evacuation, crisis, emergency plans were being readied, that the operation room remained open etc.

As anybody can notice, there are no reassuring phrases in these interviews. The concept of energy discharge does not appear any longer, not even from De Bernardinis. The newspapers in the following days are not reassuring. The Mayor Cialente asked for the emergency to be declared.
It is completely useless to discuss the content of the minutes and the draft minutes of the meeting, because they were released only AFTER the earthquake of April 6; they could not have any impact on the people. All the scientific matters discussed in the meeting are of little importance for the problem of who reassured whom, and if. The discussion of scientific issues, performed by the prosecutor and the judge, is only smoke for the public eyes.
Most witnesses make reference to the interview to De Bernardinis (the one before the meeting). This means that the media had their (important) part in the message which arrived to the people and that, probably, some persons made a filtering of what they received, unconsciously selecting what they preferred to keep.


Note 1. Soon after the Motivation of the Sentence was released – that is well after the end of the first trial, a national TV emission “Presa Diretta” showed some images of the conference and – as miracle – the audio of a sentence appeared, where De Bernardinis states that “an increase of magnitude was unlikely to happen”. Of course, the context of this phrase is not known, that is, whether it was preceded or followed by an explanation. Moreover, we do not see traces of it in the local press after the meeting.
At the Appeal trial the prosecutor asked for this portion of video to be inserted among the documents. The defense objects that it was a part, only; the court decided to accept it.


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