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Italy18 October 2003

Police search Il Giornale, seize files : violation of the confidentiality of sources

Reporters Without Borders today condemned a seven-hour raid yesterday on the headquarters in Rome of Il Giornale, a daily owned by Prime Minister Berlusconi’s brother’s Paolo Berlusconi, during which police went through the files of Gianmarco Chiocci, a journalist who has been investigating the Telekom Serbia corruption allegations for the past two years.

The police copied the hard disk of Chiocci’s computer and seized 7,000 pages of files, diskettes, audio cassettes and CD-ROMs They also tried to search his home, but he was not there. The searched was ordered by Perugia province prosecutor Dario Razzi in response to a complaint by a judge, Maria Bice Barborini, accusing Chiocci and the newspaper’s editor, Maurizio Blepietro, of libel and violating the confidentiality of a judicial investigation.

"This search and these seizures are unacceptable in a democratic society and constitute a serious violation of the confidentiality of sources," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "The protection of journalists’ sources is one of the essential conditions of press freedom and this is often stressed by the European Court of Human Rights," he said.

In a ruling on 25 February (Roemen and Schmit v. Luxembourg), the European court of Human Rights said searches of a journalist’s home or professional premises were contrary to article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights if there was no "pressing social need." The case was similar to the Il Giornale one, involving searches carried out because of an alleged violation of professional secrecy.

The Telekom Serbia scandal erupted two years ago. European Commission president Romano Prodi, Democrats of the Left party leader Piero Fassino and former foreign minister Lamberto Dini were accused of taking kickbacks in the acquisition by Telecom Italia of 29 per cent in Telekom Serbia in 1997, when Prodi was prime minister. The purchase resulted in a loss of more than 500 billion lire.

Chiocci was one of the first journalists to interview the source of this allegation, financial adviser Igor Marini, and he has already been questioned about it by the Turin prosecutor. Marini told Il Giornale that judge Barborini had ordered him not to talk about the Telekom Serbia case or he would "get them all killed. After the newspaper ran this story, Barborini lodged a complaint against Marini with the Perugia prosecutor.

The violation of judicial secrecy of which Il Giornale is accused concerns a deposition which Marini made to Swiss judges. Many Italian newspapers are investigating the Telekom Serbia case. The daily La Repubblica recently published documents purportedly demonstrating that Marini is an imposter and that the entire scandal was fabricated by the right. A journalist with the weekly L’Espresso, owned by the same group as La Repubblica, was also the target of a search on 1 October.

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