A prominent Italian journalist has been found guilty of libel after insulting Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in a television interview.
Roberto Saviano used a swear word to describe Ms Meloni while attacking her stance on migration in December 2020.
He has been handed a suspended fine of 1,000 euros (£864).
Though he will only have to pay it if he repeats the offence, campaigners said the verdict sent a “chilling message” about press freedom.
Speaking to reporters outside the court, Mr Saviano said Ms Meloni’s government had sought to “intimidate” him for calling out “lies” about migrants, news agency AFP reported.
Ms Meloni’s lawyer said his words were an “insult”, not criticism, accusing him of “excessive, vulgar and aggressive language”, the agency added.
The incident happened in a December 2020 television interview, before Ms Meloni became prime minister.
In the interview, Mr Saviano criticised Ms Meloni and fellow right-wing leader Matteo Salvini for their comments on migrant rescue charity vessels.
As opposition leader, Ms Meloni had said that boats carrying rescued migrants ought to be sunk.
The Pen International writers’ association had urged the prime minister to drop the case, but Ms Meloni said she saw no reason to, adding that it was up to the judges to decide.
The association said the judgement was an “alarming setback for free speech” and sent a “dangerous warning to writers and journalists across the country”.
Mr Saviano’s lawyer said he would appeal the verdict.
Under Italian law, some defamation cases can be criminal and carry a custodial sentence up to three years in jail.
Ms Meloni has filed similar lawsuits in the past, including against the editors of Domani newspaper, for alleging she had tried to help an MP from her own party win a government contract to procure face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that she is also suing Placebo singer Brian Molko for defamation, after he called her a fascist and racist during a gig in Turin.