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Italy22 November 2003

RAI suspends satirical programme after lawsuit by Berlusconi-owned company

Reporters Without Borders today questioned the decision of the Italian state-owned broadcasting company RAI to temporarily suspend the RAI3 television channel’s satirical programme "Raiot" on 19 November and to view the programme’s next five editions before deciding whether to broadcast them.

The decision followed the broadcasting on 16 November of an edition of "Raiot" focussing on the mass media in Italy, which brought a lawsuit for defamation from the commercial television company Mediaset, owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"It would be simply too much if a programme about press freedom in Italy, which quoted the Reporters Without Borders worldwide ranking that put Italy in 53rd place, were to be sanctioned for content deemed overly critical," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said.

"We hope that RAI’s board of directors reinstates ’Raiot’ in the RAI3 programming as soon as possible in order to dispel any doubts about the motives for this suspension," Ménard added.

In a statement on 19 November, the RAI board of directors said "Raiot" was being suspended because of the possibility of legal consequences stemming from comments made during the programme.

Mediaset has said that "lies and very grave accusations" were made during the programme that damaged the reputation of a company quoted on the stock exchange, and that this was all the more serious as it came from direct competitor.

Presenter Sabrina Guzzanti said in the course of the programme that all of the Italian news media were experiencing losses from advertising with the sole exception of Mediaset, which was showing positive results.

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