A bad year has ended but 2020 has also begun badly

The seriousness of the phenomenon of intimidation is now well known and documented, but countermeasures are slow in coming

The first month of the new year sadly confirms the negative trend of 2019 and the seriousness of a situation that has been known for some time, which continues and which no one can pretend not to see. By now the situation has been amply documented and described in every aspect, together with the appropriate and possible countermeasures required at various levels and awaited for some time. Yet the impression is that one prefers to wait, instead of proceeding with treatment. It is necessary to say this after analysing the phenomenon from a privileged position just as independent as the clinical analyses of a laboratory.

As for 2019, the Ossigeno per l’Informazione (Oxygen for Information) surveys have confirmed that for the Italian journalists and media it was a negative year which went as badly as the years that preceded it, without signs of improvement, and not only as regards the trend of the most serious and dramatic problem, which makes their work difficult and risky: the problem that takes the form of intimidation, threats and retaliation against journalists to convince them not to concern themselves with certain news.

2019 also went badly due to the unresolved problems concerning employment, wages and the pensions of journalists and the promised legislative reforms, overdue and expected for decades, starting with the revision of the sentencing guidelines and the remedial correction of the punitive aspects of the Press Law of 1948, necessary in order to eliminate the tripwires and snares that contribute to making publishing and journalism a path fraught with dangers and obstacles. These aspects must be remembered, because they make even more worrying the trend of the very specific phenomenon of intimidation that Ossigeno per l’Informazione (Oxygen for Information) keeps under observation in a more targeted and direct way through its observatory. And it is precisely on this issue that I intend to dwell, beyond more general considerations made separately (Read editorial here).

In 2019 the number of intimidations and other violent acts of censorship remained high. Many of the incidents detected were serious and went unpunished, as explained by the statistical data that we have published (Read here).

These figures tell most persuasively how things are. We invite you to read them carefully to appreciate their reliability which distinguish these statistics from others that indicate less intimidation in this regard through describing only a very circumscribed part of the phenomenon, as we note in another article (read here).

If anything, the Oxygen data can be criticized for under-representation, because they concern only some of the incidents that occurred in Italy, i.e., those detected and certified directly by the Oxygen Observatory on the basis of a rigorous checking of the facts. This work is carried out by a small team of experts who have limited resources and therefore can only glimpse, document, certify and describe part of the phenomenon which we call the tip of the iceberg.

Anyone wants to better understand how Ossigeno produces these data, what and how much of the reality they represent, can read the methodology employed and disclosed since 2013 (Read here). The prerequisites for this methodology are autonomy of judgment and independence from any centre of power. Another prerequisite is the rigorous verification of every episode of threat or intimidation identified. This is, indispensable to avoid the spread of fake news that would harm those who are threatened in the first place. The last prerequisite is the publication of news of the verified incidents, so that anyone can raise any objections to individual incidents.

To ensure the essential autonomy to carry out this task, Ossigeno imposes specific limitations. As a low cost observatory it operates with limited means, making use only of voluntary and unbiased donations, disavowing advertising and sponsorships and using free professional volunteers.

THE DATA OF 2019 – In 2019 Ossigeno identified 433 intimidations and threats against as many journalists and bloggers. Out of 236 of these episodes, it performed a detailed and in-depth check. Of the remaining 197 episodes, on the other hand, due to the lack of adequate resources, a less thorough check was carried out but which allowed them to be classified as “very probable”. These latest episodes are not counted in the Ossigeno Threat Counter, which records 4023 threats in Italy since 2006 and takes into account only the incidents verified in depth by the Observatory. For the same reason, this Threat Counter does not even take into account official statistics, according to which thousands of intimidations take place every year in Italy due to complaints and vexatious lawsuits for libel. More detailed data can be consulted (Read here) and additional more complete data will be included in the next Report.


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