The question of news is now being asked in an unprecedented way in post-war Italy after the victory in the legislative elections of 13 May 2001 by the centre-right coalition headed by Silvio Berlusconi. Italy’s richest man, Silvio Berlusconi, through his holding company, Fininvest, controls Italy’s largest private television group, Mediaset, composed of three main private national networks. And as head of the executive branch he can exercise indirect control of the public-sector audiovisual media with the RAI’s board of directors being appointed by the presidents of the two assemblies who are close to the ruling coalition. This board designates the president and director general of public television. Custom to date has had it that certain senior posts in the three public networks are given to representatives of the opposition in varying proportions for RAI 1, RAI 2 and RAI 3. On 10 May 2001 Silvio Berlusconi requested that a plan for reorganising the controlling structure of the holding company Fininvest be worked out to resolve the conflict of interest between the Mediaset group and his functions as head of the executive. At the end of September a draft law was presented by the government. Among other things, it provides for the creation of a regulatory authority for monitoring if government officers are making decisions as part of their functions that promote their own interests or those of their close collaborators. The draft law, considered insufficient by many observers, is to be debated in January 2002 by the Chamber of Deputies and its constitutional affairs commission.
On 18 July 2001 a booby-tapped letter addressed to Emilio Fede, director of the evening news on national network TG4, which belongs to Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset group, exploded in the hands of a secretary, who was very slightly burned.
In the night of 22 July 2001 the police forced their way into the various buildings in Genoa being used by the anti-globalisation organisations and the members of Indymedia, a network of media opposed to globalisation who had come to cover the G8 summit and the anti-globalisation counter-summit. The office space had been put at their disposal by the city of Genoa. The correspondents of the Italian daily, Il Manifesto, the magazine Carta and Radio GAP and other journalists were also working in this space. Several eye-witness accounts said that the police invasion was extremely violent and that many of the injured were evacuated to hospitals. Computer equipment was either confiscated or destroyed. Cameras were confiscated. This operation mobilised a large number of police units and several helicopters. A British journalist, Mark Covell, working for Indymedia, was seriously hurt by the police during the operation. At least fifteen other journalists were also seriously hurt by the police or by rioters. Domenico Affinito, a journalist for CNR radio and a member of the directive board of Reporters Without Borders, Italy, was hit by the police. Lorenzo Guadagnucci, a journalist for the daily, Il Resto del Carlino, was also beaten by the police and arrested during their assault on the press centre. He was hospitalised with a broken arm and head wounds. Massimo Alberti, a journalist for Radio Onda di Urto and Radio GAP was struck by the police. His glasses were broken causing injuries to his face. He was detained for several hours without receiving medical treatment. Journalist Enrico Fletzer of Radio K in Bologna was also brutally beaten by the police. Sonia Fedi, camerawoman for commercial television Mediaset, was beaten by the rioters of the "Black blocs" group. She was hospitalised with a broken leg. Kerstin Wagenschein, a German journalist working for the daily Junge Welt in Berlin, was arrested and detained in Voghera prison (to the north of Genoa) while awaiting a judge’s decision. On 22 July four journalists signed a deposition before magistrate Francesco Pinto to testify about the violence during the police assault on the anti-globalisation movement press centre: journalist Luca Tomassini of the Digipress agency, French cameraman Philippe Blanchard, Attilio Lugli, president of the Order of Journalists of Liguria, and Marcello Zipola, head of the Ligurian Journalists Union. On 8 August the chief of Italian police admitted the police had acted in excess. On 13 August the Genoa public prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into the assault by police on the Bozaneto barracks and an attack on photographer Alfonso di Munno, who was insulted and beaten by the police while he was covering the events.
Pressure and obstruction
On 29 March 2001 in the middle of the election campaign deputy Maurizio Gasparri of the Alleanza Nazionale, a constituent party of the coalition headed by Silvio Berlusconi, in a television interview named three journalists and an editorial board of the RAI (TG3) as those who should be among the first punished should the centre-right win the elections.
Before the opening of the European summit in Gand (Belgium) on 18 October Silvio Berlusconi declared to journalists, "I don’t trust you any more. You won’t get me again for the next four years", alluding to the storm of protests caused at the end of September by his comments about the "superiority" of western civilisation, and which he claimed had been misinterpreted by the press.
At the end of October the Minister of Communications, Maurizio Gasparri (Alleanza Nazionale) opposed his veto to RAI’s sale of 49 per cent of its subsidiary, Rai Way, which manages the network of relay stations, to the American group Crown Castle. On 14 November, Italian public television decided to challenge the veto in court, judging that this decision aimed to shield the private television group, Mediaset, controlled by Fininvest, Silvio Berlusconi’s holding company, from competition.