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Italy5 February 2004

Reporters Without Borders condemns new violations of protection of sources

Reporters Without Borders has protested about the violation of the right to protect their sources of two journalists whose homes and offices were searched by police.

The searches against Massimo Martinelli, of the daily Il Messaggero, and Fiorenza Sarzanini, of the daily Corriere della Sera in Rome were ordered by the prosecutor’s office in Perugia, central Italy on 4 February.

The two journalists were accused of breaking legal confidentiality rules relating to an investigation into the death of a doctor suspected of having ordered another person to commit a series of murders.

"The Italian courts have on a number of occasions violated the principle of the protection of sources, which is fundamental in ensuring independent investigative journalism," said Reporters Without Borders.

"The European Court of Human Rights views searches of homes and offices of journalists as contrary to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights in the absence of a ’pressing social need’. It is obvious that the searches were not in that category and were in fact an unacceptable attack on press freedom," said the international press freedom organisation.

Sarzanini and Martinelli both wrote articles at the end of January 2004 about the investigation into the death of a doctor suspected of being behind the satanic ritual murder of eight couples in the Tuscany countryside between 1968 and 1985 carried out by a man nicknamed the "Monster of Florence". The journalists are accused of revealing information in the enquiry evidence in breach of legal confidentiality rules.

The police copied some information found on Martinelli’s computers, seized notebooks containing notes of the investigation and took numbers found on his mobile phone. They also read documents relating to the "Monster of Florence" on Sarzanini’s work computer but without copying them. Both journalists refused to reveal their sources.

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