Representatives of institutions and journalists were united on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day. A sober and meaningful meeting. Homage paid at the Muro della Legalità.
“Our memory and our commitment goes to you and to all the innocent victims of whom we still do not have news”. This is the phrase chiselled on the memorial stone erected at the entrance to the Casa del Jazz in Rome which carries the names of 900 victims of the mafia. Here on the 3rd May Ossigeno per l’Informazione – in collaboration with Agcom and UNESCO- celebrated the UN designated World Press Freedom Day. Alongside the memorial stone there is the commemorative plaque of the Memory of Ossigeno. “ They sought the truth. Twenty eight names one story” with the 28 names and faces of Italian journalists killed whilst exercising their profession.”
Rain did not stop the participation of journalists, representatives from the institutions and agencies from the sector who along with Ossigeno wanted to render homage with a laurel wreath at the monument situated at the entrance to the Roman park which had been confiscated from organised crime. The monument is now known as the Wall of Legality. The mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, also sent a message to Ossigeno asking for the collaboration of everybody so that the Wall of Legality becomes a symbolic place where to meet in order to remember the importance of the respect for fundamental human rights and to transmit the values of truth and justice to new generations.
A sober ceremony full of significance enriched by the contributions of those present who emphasised the importance of safeguarding press freedom, a fundamental pillar of democracy. Remembrance and the defence of rights were the two key terms to which Giuseppe Mennella, the secretary of Ossigeno referred in his introductory speech to epitomise the ceremony.
Pietro Grasso, former president of the Italian Senate and honorary member of Ossigeno said that, “The search for truth and justice remains one of the bastions of democracy”. The senator expressed solidarity and gratitude to all those journalists who, each day, work divided by passion, the duty to inform and the expectation of silence from those who wish them not to speak with methods which often turn into threats. He said, “We would like that soon Parliament approves a law able to put a brake on those threatening lawsuits which too often block the activity of journalists.”
A wish shared by the deputy director of L’Espresso, Lirio Abbate, who underlined how threatening lawsuits risk becoming a real self-censorship for small publishers and freelancers. Abbate, who for years have lived with a police escort, thanked Ossigeno for the work it has done and – with bitter irony- he asked that “ … live journalists be remembered. We are alongside each of them, from the smallest to the most famous, instead of weeping over them when they are dead.”
Paola Spadari the president of the Lazio Order of Journalists re-emphasised the need to be aware of the problem of threatened journalists and of the importance of information as a “public good”. She reminded those present of the sad record of the Lazio region where the highest percentage of threatened journalists has been recorded. “Because of this, we will collaborate with the institutions so that as soon as possible those provisions able to shield journalists from threatening lawsuits, menaces and attacks are put in the parliamentary timetable.”
Antonio Nicita, the Agcom commissioner, spoke of collaboration with the institutions and with the international organisations and said he was favourable to “institutionalising as soon as possible the meritorious activity of Ossigeno per l’Informazione in order to demonstrate that the defence of freedom of information and of pluralism is linked also to the protection of whomever seeks the truth.”
Nicita was inspired by the message sent to Ossigeno from Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights. Mijatovic hoped that the collaboration between Ossigeno and Agcom to celebrate the 3rd May “could be further developed in Italy and could serve as an example to other countries to reinforce the safety of journalists.” In the message, which the president of Ossigeno Alberto Spampinato commented on during the ceremony, the commissioner expressed appreciation for the monitoring of violations of press freedom and of the attacks upon journalists conducted in Italy by Ossigeno which, Mijatovic said, represented “a good example of how the recommendations to member states by the Council of Europe, by the European parliament and by the United Nations can be implemented. He concluded by saying that “monitoring has already produced an important result- that of rendering attacks on journalists more visible and impossible to deny”.
Among the other guests present at the Casa del Jazz were; the journalist from L’Espresso Giovanni Tizian also under police escort, the managing director of Musica per Roma, Jose Ramon Dosal, Colonel Giovanni Adinolfi from the Carabinieri, inspector of Rome prisoners, Gabriella Stramaccioni, Lorenzo Mazzoli from Spi Cgil, Gianpiero Cioffredi law officer of the Lazio Region and Marta Bonafoni regional councillor. Bonafoni underlined the importance of team work in facing up to the threats stating the commitment of the Lazio Region in schools to sensitise the young to the issue. Alessia Marani on behalf of the Roman Press Association invited the entire sector to remain united in the defence of its work. During the morning, Giovanni Salvi, prosecutor at the Court of Appeal in Rome paid a visit to the Casa del Jazz to render homage to the victims of the mafia.