Mass protests by taxi drivers; journalists’ phones and materials confiscated
Strikes and protests by taxi drivers, tensions with police reported
Several days of protests and strikes were organised in Italy by taxi drivers and their trade unions during the month of July. The main reason for the protest was the bill presented by the government (Dddl Concorrenza) that aims to open up the well-regulated and protected taxi sector to competition with other actors, including ride-hailing platforms such as Uber, which currently do not operate in the country. Taxi drivers denounced the unfair competition and the negative impact that such an opening will have on the quality of the service, even more so in the light of the so-called “Uber Files” from which it emerged that the start-up allegedly used aggressive lobbying tactics to influence decision-making processes to their advantage. The drivers’ unions declared in a joint statement that the Italian government seems unable to see the scandals and the risks linked with such platforms.
Incidents of violence and tensions between protesters and police were reported. On 13th July, during one of the protests, a group of taxi drivers threw flares and smoke bombs at police in Rome. Previously, on 12th July 2022 some protesters chained themselves in front of the seat of government. On 5th July 2022, bottles were thrown by protesters when a group of taxi drivers managed to enter the area in front of the government palace before being pushed back by the police.
Climate activist protest in art gallery
In July 2022, climate activist group Ultima Generazione (Last Generation) staged a protest by gluing themselves to the glass protecting Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera which is on display at an art gallery in Florence. Two protesters held a banner, with the help of a third person, which read “Ultima Generazione No Gas No Carbone (Last Generation, No Gas, No Coal).” According to Italian news agency Ansa, the pair were taken away by police. The group told the Guardian:
“Fires, food crises and drought make it increasingly difficult. We decided to use art to sound an alarm call: we are heading towards social and eco-climate collapse.”
Journalistic material confiscated during anti-mafia authority raid for leak of judicial material
On 24th May 2022, the editorial office of the Report investigative TV programme of the public broadcaster Rai3 and the home of its journalist Paolo Mondani were searched by the Italian anti-Mafia investigative authority (DIA) that was looking for relevant material for an investigation into the leak of judicial information to the media. The search was ordered by the Caltanissetta prosecutor's office, which saw the laptops and smartphones of the journalist confiscated. The raid followed a report titled “Black Beast” - which was released by Paolo Mondani and broadcast some days before - about the assassination of the anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone in 1992 (the Capaci massacre). The report revealed new evidence on the links between the far-right and the mafia in his murder. The deputy director of Rai3 confirmed that the search and seizure concerned documents related to the report on the Capaci massacre. An official from the Caltanissetta Prosecutor's Office said that authorities had information that Mondani had recently met with a retired lieutenant and that this exchange was at the core of its investigation, adding it was necessary "to verify the nature of this documentation”. The raid by the DIA was strongly condemned by the Italian National Federation of the Press (FISN) and the Rai journalist’s trade union (USIGRai). The union also denounced that investigations on the sources of a journalist are a clear sign of the poor state of freedom of expression in the country.
Journalists insulted and threatened for covering tragic death cases
Two similar episodes of attacks towards local journalists covering murder cases took place in June 2022. On 1st June 2022, the staff of online Italian newspaper Casteddu Online, from the southern region of Sardinia, was threatened by a family member of a woman who died following a domestic accident, which the journalist wrote an article about. The alleged family member called the author of the article multiple times, asking him to remove it and insulted and threatened him by stating that if he found out who he was, he would “cut his throat’. The man also asked for the address of the headquarters of the newspaper and for the phone number of the editor-in-chief. Local journalist associations condemned the incident and expressed their solidarity with Casteddu Online staff.
On 11th June 2022, Romina Marceca, journalist of the newspaper Repubblica was attacked shortly after interviewing the family of a woman and her son who lost their lives in a fire in their home in Bravetta, a neighborhood of Rome. After the interview, while she was leaving the neighborhood, the journalist was verbally attacked by a friend of the victim. When the journalist said that she would call the police, the man said that there were 20 of “them”, referring to other friends of the victim who were in the area, and he started harassing Marceca. The journalist left the place escorted by the police and reported the aggression. Local journalist associations condemned the attack on the journalist.
Son of mafioso orders journalist to stop writing about his father
On 26th June 2022 the son of a convicted mafioso, Rosario Mauceri, currently in jail on a life sentence, commented under a Facebook post by Josè Trovato, a Giornale di Sicilia journalist, about his new book on mafia investigations, titled “Mafia 2.0-21". The son of the mafioso ordered the journalist to stop talking about his father and called him a “pathetic journalist”. Mauceri filed a complaint with the police. In 2013 Rosario Mauceri threatened Trovato that he would “blow his head off” after he wrote some articles about the mafioso.
Journalist's equipment containing tape of murder in jail seized
On 22nd June 2022, police confiscated the phone of Francesco Pesante, a journalist of the Foggia local newspaper L’Immediato, at the request of the local prosecutor due to an investigation concerning the leak of video footage from a local prison. More specifically, the investigation concerned the killing of a man who was shot while he was returning to prison after participating in a work-release programme. The security footage was used by several other newspapers in their articles on the incident. Pesante was questioned about his sources and how he had acquired the security footage and police searched messages stored on his phone. Pesante could face up to five years in prison if found guilty of disclosing state secrets. The phone was returned to the journalist a day after being confiscated. On 13th July 2022, a court in Foggia cancelled the seizure of Pesante’s phone and ordered the return of the forensic copy of the data contained in the journalist's smartphone. National journalist associations and international press freedom organisations highlighted that the seizure of Francesco Pesante's phone jeopardised the anonymity of his sources and his journalistic confidentiality.