At a news conference today in Rome with Viva Zapatero director Sabina Guzzanti, Reporters Without Borders called on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to put a stop to his attacks and lawsuits against the press and voiced its support for the media the Italian leader has targeted.
“Berlusconi is on the verge of being added to our list of Predators of Press Freedom,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “This would be a first for a European leader. We are also about to release the latest version of our press freedom index and Italy has every chance of being ranked last among the European Union member countries.”
Berlusconi has been stepping up his harassment of the media and his attacks on press freedom in recent weeks. He has brought a 1-million-euro libel action against the newspaper La Repubblica because it has been pressing him for two months to respond to questions about his private life, in particular his relationships with a teenage girl and female escorts who say they have attended parties at his villas in Rome and Sardinia.
At the same time, the daily L’Unità is being sued for 3 million euros over its coverage of alleged corruption in connection with receptions organised for the prime minister.
Not content with trying to impose a positive and upbeat coverage of his activities on the state-owned media and the media owned by his Mediaset press empire, Berlusconi is now trying to dictate the coverage of the independent Italian media and international media. Lawsuits have been brought against the Spanish daily El País over photos of one of his parties and against the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur over a report headlined “Sex, power and lies” about the Russian mafia’s alleged infiltration into the leadership of the Italian government.
Berlusconi is also considering suits against Rupert Murdoch’s English-language newspapers, which could add to the conflict of interests arising from the fact that he is Italy’s premier and a media magnate at the same time.
“The European Union must clearly repudiate the abuses currently taking place in Italy and in other member countries,” Julliard said today. “We hope that the next EU summit on 29-30 October will be used to issue a reminder to everyone that Europe must be a space that is free of all press freedom violations.”
At the initiative of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Niccolò Rinaldi, an Italian MEP affiliated to this group, the European Parliament has scheduled a debate about freedom of the press and information in Italy for its 7 October plenary session. The European Parliament’s leading political groups intend to use the debate to make it clear that the situation in Italy is of concern to the entire Union. It could result in a draft resolution that would be put to a vote at the plenary session in Strasbourg on 19-22 October.
Julliard and the Italian section of Reporters Without Borders will attend a demonstration in defence of press freedom tomorrow in Rome. The press freedom organisation urges journalists and all citizens to come and express their support for media freedom and independence.
Leggere in Italiano : Italia - Basta Cosi’ : Silvio Berlusconi si avvicina alla lista dei predatori della libertà di stampa
(Picture Marcello Paternostro/AFP/Getty Images)