Press threatened by far-right extremists, mafia & politicians
ASGI requests publication of Italy-Gambia agreement for transparency reasons
On 4th July 2022, ASGI (the Association for Legal Studies on Migration) requested the publication of the agreement between Italy and Gambia on the repatriation of migrants to the African country. The Italian government refused to publish the agreement, explaining that it exclusively concerns the cooperation between the police corps of the two countries. In fact, Italian law establishes that the obligation to publish an agreement between Italy and a foreign country is valid only if it concerns an international agreement. ASGI maintains that the agreement foresees economic and legal obligations for Italy that would trigger its classification as an “international agreement”. This publication would be crucial to ensure monitoring by civil society of the international actions of the Italian government and its respect for international law and human rights. On 10th June 2022, the Court of Cassation asked the Presidency of the Council to make the agreement accessible to the public and civil society.
Environmental activists launch a “new season” of actions targeting museums
On 22nd July 2022, the environmental activist group Ultima Generazione (Last Generation) staged a protest action at Galleria degli Uffizi, in Florence. They glued themselves to the glass protecting the world-renowned “Primavera" painting by Botticelli and showed a banner reading “Ultima Generazione No Gas No Carbone (Last Generation, No Gas, No Coal)”. The activists declared that a new season of protests targeting museums had started and the action at Galleria degli Uffizi was just the first of a long series. In fact, they explained that the same care and attention directed towards artistic heritage should be dedicated to the protection of the environment. This action follows similar protests carried out in the UK by the group Just Stop Oil. The two women and a man, who had paid for their tickets, were expelled from the museum and taken away by police as a consequence of the action. The painting was not damaged as a result of the gluing.
On 18th August 2022, Last Generation carried out a similar protest in the Vatican Museums in Rome when two activists from the environmental group glued themselves to the Laocoonte statue. In their declarations, the protesters made a parallel between the destiny of Laocoonte, who died in an attempt to save himself, his sons and the entire community by alerting everyone to imminent danger, and the environmental movement. Similarly to Laocoonte, the environmental groups are not listened to, even though they are trying to save the planet and the people living on it.
Italian environmental activists staged a second museum protest in as many months, gluing their hands Thursday to the base of one of the Vatican Museums' most important ancient sculptures, the Laocoon. https://t.co/vp68uKskVR— The Associated Press (@AP) August 18, 2022
Journalists insulted and threatened by right-wing actors
A series of attacks on journalists perpetrated by right-wing extremists were reported over July and August 2022:
- On 24th July 2022 La Repubblica journalist Paolo Berizzi was targeted by online threats and insults from users associated with far-right groups. The insults came in response to Berizzi's article the day before about the links between right-wing Brothers of Italy party leader Giorgia Meloni and the neo-Nazi and neo-fascist political groups. For the past three years the journalist has been living under police protection due to death threats from neo-fascist groups. On 15th July 2022, the trial of one perpetrator for serious threats made against the journalist on previous occasions began.
- On 26th August 2022 journalist Antonella Napoli, working for Articolo 21, received death and rape threats on Twitter for writing an article criticising racial hatred instigated by the Italian right and condemning the publication of a video of a rape that occurred in Piacenza, which Giorgia Meloni, leader of Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), shared on her social media. One of the Twitter accounts responsible for the threat was suspended.
- On 29th August Italian-Moroccan journalist Karima Moual from La Repubblica reported receiving racist insults and threats via Facebook Messenger from a self-declared supporter of Giorgia Meloni.
Several attacks on journalists while on assignment
Several attacks against journalists were documented while they were performing their work between the months of July and August 2022:
- On 14th July 2022 protesters participating in a demonstration organised by taxi drivers in Rome insulted the Rai News crew and physically attacked cameraman Angelo Vegliante, from AGTW agency. The demonstrators called journalists “disgusting”, “terrorist journalists” and ordered them to “go away”.
- On 17th July 2022 Valeria Riccioni, journalist of Giornale Radio Rai, was attacked in front of the Anzio police station while she was covering the news of a young man stabbed to death the previous night. Shortly before this, the father of the man was taken into custody for physically attacking the bouncers of the club because he claimed that they failed to protect his son. The family and friends of the victim, who had gathered in front of the police station, insulted, shoved and screamed at the journalist, but they were stopped before they could reach her. Overall, Riccioni reported that she was scared and perceived “a great prejudice towards journalists”. Local journalist associations condemned the attack and called for better security conditions for journalists while performing their work.
- On 22nd July 2022, Beppe Bedolis, photo journalist of the local newspaper L’Eco di Bergamo was attacked by a group of unknown people while he was photographing the decay of the train station in the city of Bergamo. Bedolis reported that bottles and an iron bar were thrown at him, which he managed to dodge. Two police agents who were patrolling the area intervened, but the perpetrators managed to escape.
- Also on 22nd July 2022, another attack on reporters took place while journalists of Repubblica newspaper and members of the crew of the TV news programme TG1 were covering a forest fire near the Castel Fusano Country Club in the Ostiense neighbourhood of Rome. The reporters were attacked, threatened and denied access to the club by two bodyguards. According to media reports, police officers present at the scene witnessed the incident but failed to intervene. On the contrary, they said that the bodyguards were simply working and told the journalists to leave the scene. The local journalist association condemned the attack on the reporters and the inaction of police at the scene.
Journalist’s car set on fire in retaliation
During the night of 18th July 2022, the car belonging to journalist Francesco Digiorgio’s partner was set on fire while parked in the yard of the house in which the journalist and his pregnant partner were sleeping, not far from Rome. The noise awoke the journalist who intervened with a fire extinguisher and called the firefighters, who stopped the fire before major damage was caused. According to Digiorgio, the attack was in retaliation for his journalistic work as he had driven his partner's car while on assignments for a few days before the incident as his own car was being repaired. The journalist, who writes for the online publication Informare H24 and the magazine Il Prometeo and administers a Facebook news page for his hometown (Arcinazzo), has been reporting for years about the danger caused by animals let loose by local farmers. He specified that local farmers have used arson attacks in the past to intimidate rival farmers. He stated in an article on Informare H24 that he will never stop reporting and will not be intimidated by this mafia-like modus operandi.
Local politician and mafioso openly threaten reporters
On 28th August 2022, the candidate to the presidency of the Sicily Region and former mayor of Messina, Cateno De Luca, attacked journalist Giacinto Pipitone, from Giornale di Sicilia in several posts and a video published on Facebook over an article published on the same day. The politician also accused the local media of being the “information mafia”. The local association of journalists expressed their solidarity with Pipitone and Giornale di Sicilia and raised concerns over the attempt to influence local media ahead of elections.
Another worrying incident took place on 27th August 2022, when Arzano News journalist Mimmo Rubio was confronted in a threatening manner by a convicted mafioso, member of the Arzano clan 167. Police officers and journalist Giuseppe Bianco were present at the scene. The incident was immediately reported to the authorities. Shortly afterwards, the mother of the mafioso sent the journalist death threats on social media. Mimmo Rubio has been under police protection since 2020 as a consequence of his reporting on mafia issues.
“No vax” and “no war” written on La Stampa building
On 31st July 2022, the windows of the national newspaper La Stampa's building in Turin,were smeared with writings reading “no vax” and “no war”. The newspaper denounced the incident and declared that these acts of intimidation will not influence their journalistic activity. Several national-level political figures from the whole spectrum expressed their solidarity and condemned any attempts to limit freedom of expression.
Civic Space Developments