Police seize personal phones, accounting books of Linea D’Ombra ODV

Early in the morning of 23rd February 2021 the police entered the private home of Lorena Fornasir and Gian Andrea Franchi, two activists who in 2019 founded the volunteering organisation “Linea D’Ombra ODV”, which offers first assistance to migrants who manage to arrive in Trieste from the Balkan route. The headquarters of the CSO was also searched by police. Police seized personal cellphones, accounting books and other materials. The aim of this intervention by the police was to look for evidence that links Linea D’Ombra with the crime of aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Furthermore, Gian Andrea Franchi is being charged in relation to “sheltering a migrant couple and their two sons for one night in his home, and then driving them to the train station the following day”. In a public note, the association condemned the action of the police and the persecution of acts of solidarity. In the communication Linea D’Ombra ODV also appeals to the constitutional values of equality, dignity and freedom. In a statement Front Line Defenders said that it is “deeply concerned” that the two activists are being “targeted as a result of their legitimate and peaceful work in the promotion and protection of the rights of migrants and refugees.”

Petition to give Italian citizenship to Patrick George Zaki held prisoner in Egypt

The 6,000 Sardines movement and Station To Station brought to the Chamber a petition with 160,000 signatures in support of the proposal to give Patrik Zaki the Italian citizenship. Over 70 members of Parliament have signed the motion to transform the petition into a concrete proposal. Patrick Zaki is an Egyptian student of the University of Bologna and a human rights activist who has been detained since 7th February 2020 in Egypt, as reported in our previous update. Citizenship status would help the Italian government to put more pressure on Egyptian authorities for Zaki’s release.

Peaceful Assembly

Protests against threats to women’s rights

During the month of February 2021 several protests against regional measures that threaten women’s rights were organised in the Italian regions of Marche and Umbria, despite the restrictions due to COVID-19.

More specifically, the protests in the Umbria region were a reaction to the fact that medical abortion is an option offered only by small hospitals, while the two main hospitals of the region have never introduced this practice in the past ten years. The situation is particularly worrying considering that last summer the regional governor of Umbria (from the League) attempted to forbid medical abortion, but she was obliged by national guidelines and stark protests to modify her proposal.

In the Marche region, a member of the regional government has declared that medical abortion will not be practised in free clinics, openly contradicting national guidelines on the topic. The activist Sara Spina from the network “Le donne avanzano” has said to Internazionale that the restrictions of the freedom of association linked to COVID-19 are a huge obstacle for pro-abortion movements and that in this case they indirectly benefit the regional governments and their decisions.

Other COVID-19 related protests

On 12th January 2021, workers from the tourism industry staged a protest in Rome over the lack of support during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Autonomous Movement for Travel Agencies (MAAVI) said that the sector was left out of the government’s second coronavirus relief package.


Homophobic hate speech denounced by CSO

The association “I Sentinelli di Milano”, which promotes the values of secularism and anti-fascism, denounced Trieste city councilor Fabio Tuiach for hate speech in reaction to the violent declarations that the former member of Forza Nuova and the League posted on social media. “I Sentinelli di Milano” also joined other civil society organisations in the request for the councillor's dismissal.

Fabio Tuiach published a homophobic post on the Russian social media site VK in which he referred to a homophobic attack against LGBTI activist Antonio Parisi that took place near Trieste on 16th February 2020. The city councillor, among other offensive claims, stated that homophobia does not exist in “more than one third of the world” as gay people in other countries face prison or the death penalty. Many CSOs are calling for him to be held accountable for his hate speech and homophobia and to be condemned at all levels, especially at an institutional level.

Other incidents

On 13th January 2021, the trial of Italy’s largest mafia group, the Calabrian organised crime syndicate ‘Ndrangheta, and their affiliates began, with the accused facing charges of murder, extortion, loan sharking, drug trafficking, abuse of office and money laundering. However, the judge in the trial barred journalists from recording audio or video in the courtroom. Newspapers and media outlets were only allowed one permitted accredited correspondent in the room. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the Italian Federation of Journalists’ Unions (FNSI) and the Union of RAI journalists (USIGRai) condemned the ban on video recordings.

“These proceedings will give the opportunity to uncover some of the ‘Ndrangheta’s many ways to infiltrate into politics, the judicial system, and the financial world. For these reasons, the trial has attracted the attention of European journalists. But the decision to prevent the resumption of the hearings severely restricts the journalists’ right to report.”
“The journalists were prepared to compromise by delegating the recording of sound and images to a single team of journalists who would have provided the recordings to all media. We call on the Italian judiciary to reconsider its position and allow the debates to be public.”- EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez.

In March 2021, the ban on audio and video recording was rescinded by a Court of Vibo Valentia.

As documented by Mapping Media Freedom, on 5th March 2021, journalist Silvia Bergamin of Il Mattino di Padova faced sexist insults, such as being labelled as a “prostitute’ on Facebook after her report on a drug-charge arrest. The comments were posted on a Facebook page “Sei di Cittadella se”, which has 12,700 members, and included more than 60 comments. Bergamin has filed libel proceedings against the people involved. After a complaint was lodged with Facebook, the offensive posts were taken down.