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Italy6 April 2006

Head of government rapped for a third time since start of election campaign

Reporters Without Borders welcomed the fact that a third fine was slapped on centre-right candidate Silvio Berlusconi on 3 April, days before legislative elections, via his privately-owned TV group Mediaset, for breaking the “Par Condicio” law on equal air time for candidates.

“The head of government has several times been brought to heel by the superior council on broadcasting for having exceeded the airtime allowed by law during the campaign. The conflict of interests of the prime minister, who is also a press head, has been sanctioned. We welcome it,“ said the press freedom organisation.

The Italian regulatory authority had already sentenced the group Mediaset, owned by Silvio Berlusconi, to a fine of 150,000 euros for exceeding his airtime on 9 February.

On 22 March, two TV stations owned by Mediaset, were respectively fined 200,000 and 100,000 euros, for once again breaking the same law.

The fine levied on 3 April amounting to 250,000 euros was the maximum allowed. The Italian communications authority found that, among others, the head and presenter of TV news on Rete 4, Emilio Fede, had openly supported Berlusconi during broadcasts and failed to balance news in favour of the centre-left lists between 22 to 28 March, as he had been instructed to after a first warning.

On 5 April Silvio Berlusconi said he would not after all appear on one of his TV stations, Canale 5. The announcement of this latest appearance had provoked an outcry because it would have once again broken electoral rules. Berlusconi was going to be the programme’s only guest, since his main rival, Romani Prodi, had turned down the invitation. The TV duel between Silvio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi broadcast on 3 April on public television Rai should have been the last televised appearance of the two candidates.

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