The English translation of the letter sent by Boiron threatening the Italian blogger

After the publication of my news piece on the British Medical Journal about the Italian blog threatened by Boiron Italy, that ignited an International Streisand effect, several colleagues all over the world wrote about the issue, and some asked for an English translation of the letter.

Here is an informal translation of the threatening letter sent by Boiron Italy to Italian blogger Samuele Riva (translated by Fabio Turone, as a service for the science writers’ community).

The letter signed by the CEO Silvia Nencioni was sent to the Internet provider, and threatened both the provider and the blogger of bringing them to court in case they did not comply immediately with their requests.

The language contains a lot of lawyer jargon, that I tried to simplify, saving the meaning: take everything with a grain of salt (and ask if I was not clear enough).

On the letterhead of Boiron Italy.

Subject: Web site «» – Libelous content – Intimation and request of removal

From the NIC (Network Information Center) it appears that you manage the domain «», registered on the name of Mr Samuele Riva.

On 13 July 2011, on the website appeared an article under the headline: «Homoeopathy: myth and legend», signed by «Samuele», libelous of homoeopathy and our Company.

In particular, in such article, announced as the first of a series, after expressing untrue and unfounded opinions on homoeopathy, appeared a photograph of two tubes of our medicine «Oscillococcinum» with the following caption: «The Nothing-at-all that according to Boiron treats flu… diluted 200K it doesn’t contain any molecule of active principle!».

Later, on 27 July 2011, another article is published under the headline «Homoeopathy: myth and legend (2)», signed by «Samuele», again libelous of homoeopathy and our medicine «Oscillococcinum».

In fact, under the picture of our medicine the following caption was published: «Seriously damages the intelligence (of those buying it)».

The article goes on citing our medicine and our Company and announcing a new article on the issue.

The publication over the Internet of such messages, untrue and derogatory of homoeopathy and our Company and our medicine seriously tarnishes the reputation of our Company, as described in the Article 595 of the penal code, and causes serious damages which could be recovered in a civil court.

You, being the manager of the blog through which those messages have been and continue to be diffused, are responsible for the control over the content, and hence you are co-responsible both from the penal and the civil point of view, of the defamation undercourse.

In the light of all that has been written, with this letter we intimate/order you – in your quality of manager and hence responsible subject for the domain – to remove immediately and, in any case, no later than 24 hours after receiving this letter all articles signed «Samuele», including every picture of our medicine and any and all references to our medicines and our company.


In addition, we warn you against any unauthorised use within your blog of pictures of our products and the logos of our Company.


We finally warn you to prevent Mr Samuele, author of the cited libelous articles, to access

Missing such acts/if you don’t comply we reserve the right of any further actions to defend our rights and interests.

With Regards

Laboratoires Boiron srl (Italian arm of Boiron)

The Chief Executive Officer

Dott.ssa Silvia Nencioni

When homoeopathy meets science journalism…


Homoeopathy multinational Boiron threatens amateur Italian blogger

Fabio Turone, Milan

A letter sent by the Italian arm of multinational company Boiron, threatening to sue an amateur blogger over remarks he made about homoeopathy, has sparked a strong internet reaction in defence of freedom of speech. Samuele Riva posted two articles on his blog, , on 13 and 27 July,which included pictures of Boiron’s blockbuster homoeopathic product Oscillococcinum, marketed as a remedy against flu symptoms. The pictures were accompanied by captions, which joked about the total absence of any active molecules in homoeopathic preparations. On 28 July Boiron fired off a letter to the internet provider, complaining that both the articles and the captions were “untrue and derogatory both of homeopathy and [the] company,” and responsible for tarnishing the company’s reputation and causing “serious damage”…

Mi fa piacere non solo di dare il mio sostegno a Samuele, ma anche di aver potuto citare la seguente frase di Piero Angela, che nel 2004 sconfisse in tribunale (sia in sede civile sia in sede penale) due associazioni di medici omeopati che pretendevano di avere a “Superquark” il diritto di replica: “The courts looked into the scientific evidence we provided, and stated that homoeopaths had no right of reply on public service TV, accepting my view that it is a science journalist’s duty to clearly distinguish between what is science and what is not”.

We call upon Silvio Berlusconi to resign immediately

1. Resignation.
We call upon Silvio Berlusconi to resign immediately from his post as Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri. In no other democratic country would a Prime Minister, faced with such serious legal accusations, remain in office longer than a few hours. All Italian citizens, of whatever political persuasion, must realise that the image of their country is profoundly tainted if Berlusconi remains in office.
2. Attendance in court.
We call upon Silvio Berlusconi not to defend himself on television, using his substantial mediatic power to discredit the magistrates, but to present himself in court and seek to defend himself there, as would any normal citizen. Once in court, he can in any case hope to benefit from the services of the highest paid lawyers in the country. We sincerely hope, for his sake and that of the country, that he is able to demonstrate his innocence. If he and his supporters reply that the judges are irremediably biased against him, we would like to point out that on more than one occasion in the past he has been given the benefit of the doubt by the courts. In the Mondadori case, for example, the court judged in 2001 his position as Head of Government to be part of the ‘extenuating circumstances’ which in his case alone allowed the crime to be prescribed.
3. The role of the President of the Republic
In a situation in which two of the principal powers of the state – the magistracy and the executive – are on a head-on collision course of considerable danger for the future of the Republic, we call upon its President to observe closely the situation and to be prepared to intervene actively, naturally within the limits of the powers ascribed to his office by the Constitution.
4. The opposition parties
We call upon all the parties of the opposition to put aside their differences and to abandon any jockeying for position, uniting instead their voices in a single request of a single word: RESIGNATION.
5. Civil Society
We invite the many associations and the hundreds of thousands of members of civil society to do the same, pooling their resources and joining hands on a single line of action. We would particularly appeal to Catholic civil society to deplore the hesitations and silences of the Vatican on so important an issue of public ethics.
6. The friends of Italy in the world
We have written this appeal in English as well as Italian in order to reach all those abroad who are friends of Italian democracy. Do not despair of Italy! The country needs your solidarity and help.

Gustavo Zagrebelsky, Paul Ginsborg and Sandra Bonsanti for the whole movement Libertà e Giustizia (freedom and justice)


1. Dimissioni
Chiediamo a Silvio Berlusconi di dimettersi immediatamente.
In nessun altro paese democratico un Primo ministro, indagato per così gravi capi di accusa, rimarrebbe in carica. Tutti i cittadini italiani, di qualsiasi credo politico, devono essere consapevoli che l’immagine del loro paese sarà profondamente danneggiata se Berlusconi rimarrà al suo posto.

2. Presenza in aula
Chiediamo a Silvio Berlusconi di non utilizzare la televisione per difendersi e screditare i magistrati grazie al suo considerevole potere mediatico, bensì di presentarsi ai giudici come farebbe ogni cittadino. In tribunale, Berlusconi potrà comunque giovarsi dall’avere ingaggiato gli avvocati più pagati del paese. Speriamo vivamente per lui e per l’Italia che sia in grado di dimostrare la propria innocenza. Visto che Berlusconi e i suoi sostenitori affermano che i giudici sono irrimediabilmente prevenuti nei suoi confronti, ricordiamo che in più di un’occasione gli è stato garantito il beneficio del dubbio. Nel caso Mondadori, ad esempio, la corte giudicò, nel novembre 2001, la posizione di capo del Governo una “circostanza attenuante” che, unicamente nel suo caso, fece cadere in prescrizione l’accusa.

3. Il ruolo del Presidente della Repubblica
In una situazione in cui due dei principali poteri dello Stato – la magistratura e l’esecutivo – si affrontano in uno scontro estremamente pericoloso per il futuro della Repubblica, chiediamo al Presidente Napolitano di valutare la situazione e di intervenire tempestivamente, entro i limiti previsti dalla Costituzione.

4. I partiti di opposizione
Chiediamo a tutti i partiti di opposizione di mettere da parte le loro divergenze e di abbandonare qualsiasi desiderio di primeggiare, chiedendo invece con una sola voce le dimissioni del Premier.

5. Società civile
Invitiamo le numerose associazioni e le centinaia di migliaia di cittadini che si riconoscono nella società civile a concentrare le loro forze e a unirsi in una linea d’azione comune. Chiediamo soprattutto al mondo cattolico di esortare il Vaticano a pronunciarsi su una questione di etica pubblica così rilevante.

6. Gli amici dell’Italia nel mondo
Abbiamo scritto questo appello sia in inglese che in italiano per mandare un messaggio a tutti coloro che all’estero amano la nostra democrazia e le sorti del nostro Paese. Non perdete la fiducia nell’Italia! Abbiamo bisogno della vostra solidarietà e del vostro aiuto.
Gustavo Zagrebelsky, Paul Ginsborg e Sandra Bonsanti per tutta Libertà e Giustizia

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