Social and cultural centres denounce discrimination in Italy's reopening strategy

Francesca Chiavacci and Emiliano Manfredonia, the national presidents of two of the main cultural and social associations in Italy (Arci and Acli respectively), have denounced the discriminatory provisions contained in a decree law passed on 18th May 2021, which regulates the relaxation of COVID-19 measures in the country. The law establishes that cultural and social centres will only be allowed to reopen after 1st July 2021. As a result, they will be one of the last actors to be permitted to restart their activities, after gyms, restaurants and malls.

The two presidents consider this decision incomprehensible and discriminatory, with the potential to act as a final blow to the CSO sector, as it could lead to the closure of many associations.

"The time schedule provided by the decree law is a further slap in the face of the social and cultural promotion associations of the Third Sector".

The pandemic has presented a huge challenge for CSOs, especially for social and cultural centres whose mission depends on face-to-face activities. As a result the presidents sent a letter to the government to suggest alternative measures that could help reopen cultural and social centres before 1st July 2021.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have followed the government's prescriptions responsibly to counter the pandemic. During the lockdown we have played a role in training citizens in responsibility and have fielded numerous initiatives of solidarity and mutualism, to support those most in need. However, we believe this is a serious injustice and a sort of 'discrimination', which is perhaps partly due to the overlapping of regulations, under which today, in the same environmental conditions, it is not allowed for our structures, simply by virtue of their legal nature, to carry out activities similar to those that all the others are allowed".

Second birthday in prison for Patrick Zaki

On 16th June 2021, Patrick Zaki spent his second birthday in a row - his 30th - in an Egyptian prison. The activist and student from the University of Bologna has been detained for almost two years without receiving a fair trial, after he was accused of spreading subversive propaganda on the internet. At the beginning of June 2021, his pre-trial detention was extended by 45 days.

Political representatives from the Italian Democratic Party (Pd) and the 5 Stars Movement (M5S) called for Zaki's release. Laura Boldrini (Pd) proposed stopping selling weapons to Egypt, which is the first importer of Italian weapons. Amnesty International Italy's spokesperson, Riccardo Noury, defined the behaviour of Egyptian authorities as a persecution and urged the Italian government to take a stronger position on Zaki's incarceration. Recently, the Senate approved the proposal to grant Patrick Zaki Italian citizenship.

"We must once again ask ourselves what the Italian government intends to do in the face of this now evident persecution of the student of the University of Bologna. After this umpteenth cruel decision by the Egyptian judicial authorities - a new dramatic period opens for Patrick. He will spend his thirtieth birthday in prison. He has not yet been vaccinated and this is something that must be done with the utmost urgency,” Riccardo Noury, spokesman for Amnesty International Italia.

Violence at workers' protests, trade unionist killed

On 11th June 2021, violent clashes took place outside the Fedex-Tnt in Tavezzano, near Lodi, during the night. Workers of the Fedex of Piacenza were protesting the closure of the factory and were asking to be integrated with the Tavezzano branch. Demonstrators prevented transport vehicles from exiting the factory as a form of protest. Different versions of the events that unfolded have been reported in the press. According to the protesters’ testimony, around 2 am logistics workers from the Tavezzano factory attacked them with the support of a bodyguard and using weapons such as tasers, sticks and rocks. However, the logistics workers' version states that protesters from the Piacenza factory were blocking them all from leaving the building and this is why they had to use weapons to be able to get out. An investigation has been opened to determine what happened.

On 18th June 2021, a few days after this violent episode, a trade unionist - Adil Belakhdim - was killed after being hit and dragged by a truck and two protesters were hurt by the vehicle during a national strike by supermarket workers at the Lidl branch in Novara. Around 20 protesters gathered in front of the Lidl supermarket in the morning. The fatal accident took place when the driver forced his way through the blockage created by the demonstrators and ran over Adil, hitting two other protesters. The driver then tried to escape but was arrested by police some hours later at a rest area along the highway. Italian head of government Mario Draghi expressed sorrow for the death of the trade unionist and urged people to shed light on what had unfolded as soon as possible. Cgil president, Maurizio Landini, spoke of this as an unacceptable episode of violence and denounced the tense and threatening climate which in his view is putting trade unions and the right of workers to protest under great pressure, notably in the logistics field. A national strike in the sector has been called by trade unions. 


Incidents against journalists

On 14th May 2021, during an online press conference, president of Italian football team Fiorentina, Rocco Commisso insulted sports journalists, accusing them of bias and unfairly critical reporting. The National Federation of the Italian Press, Tuscan Press Association, Council of the Order of Journalists of Tuscany, Italian Sports Press Union and Ussi Toscana collectively condemned the attack.

Commisso’s words are unacceptable, have never been heard in a press conference and are not even justifiable at the end of a very difficult season.” - joint statement by journalist and press freedom groups.

On 18th June 2021, the Lazio regional administrative court ordered journalists of the investigative broadcast programme on Italian public television RAI to reveal their sources in relation to a report broadcast on 26th October 2020 on RAI3 channel. The investigation is related to the management of public funds in the Lombardy region and the Milanese lawyer Andrea Mascetti, a close associate of the Lega party. RAI announced that it would appeal to the Council of State to challenge the court's decision, which it believes “erroneously equates the journalistic activity of a public media with an administrative procedure.” The Italian Federation of Journalists (FNSI) and the RAI Journalists' Union (Usigrai) condemned the ruling, stating that it sets a “very dangerous precedent" and is a blatant violation of the confidentiality of journalistic sources.

Article 19 and other European media watchdog organisations issued a statement on the ruling.

The signatory organisations believe that allowing access to information gathered by journalists during their investigative work for the production of media articles or programs violates the right to freedom of expression and the right of journalists to protect their sources.”