ROME—Reporters Without Borders (RWB) released its annual report on violence against journalists worldwide. Italy shows a trend of less security for those who work in the media: 2014 has indeed seen an increase in threats, libel suits, and physical attacks towards them.
RWB elaborated together with the Italian NGO ‘Oxygen for Information’, and the report was released on Dec. 16. It lists 38 physical attacks suffered by Italian journalists. A number that sets a new record after 34 attacks in 2013. Generic threats increased by 10 percent, reaching the figure of 421. Intimidations considered “endemic and continually rising”, are leading journalists to “often resort to protection by the police.”
One of the last cases which rose attention, is the car ramming of Lirio Abbate on Nov. 11. The journalist of news weekly L’Espresso has been escorted since 2007 due to threats received from mafia following his investigative work. It is just the latest in a series of attacks and injuries received by the Sicilian journalist, listed as ‘hero of information’ by Reporters Without Borders.
Italy hits 49th place out of 180 countries concerning press freedom. Even though 66 journalists got killed and 119 kidnapped worldwide this year, no incident took place within Italian borders, the country remains among the worst ones in Europe.
According to ‘Oxygen for Information’ – which is run by the National Federation of the Italian press and the Italian Order of Journalists – Lazio region (where the capital Rome is situated) is the region with most threats (86), although Basilicata region can be regarded as the most problematic, considering the low population and the low number of media presence. Letters with bullets, stalking, death threats on the phone, insults on Facebook to even family members are a reality for 7 percent of the journalists who reside in the southern region.
Pressure on journalists also comes through the halls of justice. Going to court is becoming more common, “especially with politicians and other public figures – with the aim of putting pressure on journalists and censuring their reporting”. Since Oct. 31, 2014, more than 220 complaints and lawsuits have been recorded, most against media workers in printed editions. A situation that RWB underlines as being “perfectly legal as well as very effective” to silence journalists.
Among notable cases reported, there is the lawsuit filed by Pasquale Scavone – mayor of the city of Tito in the province of Potenza – against local TV station Basilicata24, for a report on the dangers of drinking municipal water. Another mayor, Massimo Bitonci from Padua, has instead filed a complaint against senator and writer Laura Puppato, who had criticized Bitonci on her blog, for choosing not to meet the Moroccan consul.