Journalists in Italy, as elsewhere in Europe, saw their right to protect their sources come under fire in 2007 and parliamentary measures threatened to curb media access to some public-domain material. Organised crime also continued to threaten the lives of journalists who dared to expose its activities.
The lower house of parliament (Chamber of Deputies) passed a government-sponsored bill on 17 April 2007 regulating media publication of the results of government phone-tapping, including an obligation to destroy all tapes five years after a court decision in the case and a ban on publishing or broadcasting a tape after a case was closed. Infractions would carry heavy fines of up to €100,000 and also several days in prison. The bill still has to be approved by the senate.
The national journalists union, FNSI, called a protest strike for 30 June and the president of the Order of Journalists, Lorenzo del Boca, underlined that “the threat of prison for journalists, who would be punished for simply doing their job, will set us back more than a decade”. Italian newspapers often print entire pages of transcriptions of court-tapped phone conversations to put pressure on prominent people.
Journalists targeted by organised crime
Two men were disturbed by police in Palermo (Sicily) on 2 September as they tried to attach a bomb to the car of Lirio Abbate, a crime specialist with the Ansa news agency who also works for the daily paper La Stampa. The attempt came just a few days after Abbate had returned to Palermo and after several months of threats after publication of his book about organised crime and the support crime boss Bernardo Provenzano enjoyed from national politicians.
Abbate, 38, was given a permanent police escort, the first time this had been done for any Palermo journalist, and drove in an armoured vehicle constantly accompanied by two bodyguards. But these measures hindered his ability to do his job, which depends on meetings with people who wanted to remain anonymous, and also unknown to the police.
Writer-journalist Roberto Saviano, 28, correspondent for l’Espresso and author of a book about the Neapolitan mafia, has meanwhile lived under police protection in Naples since October 2006 because of threats received since his book came out.
Secrecy of sources threatened
Police searched the Naples home of Giuseppe d’Avanzo, of the daily La Repubblica, on 13 December a day after he revealed that city prosecutors were opening an investigation of alleged corruption by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. D’Avanzo cited phone-tapping results that Berlusconi had offered a centre-left senator, Nino Randazzo, a deputy minister’s post if he would help him overthrow prime minister Romano Prodi’s government.