Alarm in Rome – 14 journalists attacked in 14 days – What has to be done?

Order and journalists’ union protested – Oxygen: reaffirm the legitimacy of the right to report

OSSIGENO 29th  July 2022 – In the space of 14 days, between the 9th and 23rd  July 2022, in Rome and its surroundings, 14 journalists engaged in various news coverage outside the newsrooms – that is, while they were doing only  their work – have been threatened and attacked. The close succession of these incidents aroused the concern of journalists’ organizations, which expressed solidarity with those attacked and asked for intervention by the authorities to ensure the safety of journalists and to put an end to the impunity of the attackers.

Ossigeno per l’Informazione continually follows the evolution of the phenomenon of intimidation of journalists and has pointed out for some time that Lazio (especially for the intimidations that occur in Rome) has been, for many years,  the Italian Region with the highest number of threatened reporters and the area of Italy where some of the most serious episodes have occurred. Nevertheless, no security plan adequate to the seriousness of the situation in this field  has so far been adopted, neither by public authorities nor by publishing companies .

Attacks on journalists are the most evident display of a widespread intolerance towards those, who dutifully exercising a right, gather information on current events and publish it in the public interest.

To stem this violence, the violent perpetrators must be systematically identified and sanctioned, but initiatives by journalists and public authorities are also needed to reaffirm at every level that journalists are public information professionals, operating in the public interest while respecting people and the law.

THE SIX EPISODES THAT CAUSED ALARM

9th  JULY –  In CENTOCELLE, a Rome neighbourhood, on the  9th  July 2022 there was another attack on some journalists who rushed there to cover the fire that broke out in an  area of ​​some car breakers yards. The story is told by Stampa Romana (read here), who writes: “Faced with a fire of impressive dimensions in Centocelle in the ruins that still characterize the area and the park, one should only thank colleagues, videographers  and technicians  who approached to the sources of the fire in order to inform the public. Instead some of them were threatened and, one in a particular case, was kicked while filming. All under the gaze of the police who asked those who were enraged to desist.” The climate was so tense that the journalists involved did not even want their names to be published, perhaps precisely because reporters who work there every day on the street know that those unpleasant encounters could be repeated. FNSI expressed solidarity with colleagues (read here) and added: “It is urgent that government and parliament finally approve effective legislation to protect freedom of information, the pillar of democracy”.

11 JULY – ROMINA MARCECA, a journalist sent by the newspaper La Repubblica, was attacked in the Bravetta neighbourhood, in Rome, where she went to report on a house fire in which a mother and her son lost their lives, which took place the same day (read here ). “I introduced myself to the family as a journalist, as I always do. The victim’s sister also provided me with all the information, we talked calmly and sympathetically about what happened. When I left the house a man called me ‘jackal’ and ‘shit’. I told him that he was attacking me on a public street for no reason and that, feeling threatened, I was about to call the police. He replied: ‘We are twenty against one’. And a friend of his added: ‘I won’t give you a “pizza” (i.e. a slap in Roman dialect) , because you don’t have a mustache’. Then other people joined, encircling me, to drive me away ”. The arrival of the police prevented the situation from escalating to the detriment of the journalist. Solidarity was expressed also from the editorial committee of La Repubblica (read here).

14 JULY – ANGELO VEGLIANTE, videographer, collaborator with the Agtw agency, was covering a protest by taxi drivers in Rome, at a stone’s throw from Palazzo Chigi, the Prime Minister’s residence. Suddenly he was approached by a protester, who pulled him and ordered him to leave. In addition to this, the protester directed a series of insults against him. The video of the attack was also published by Corriere della Sera (see here).

17 JULY – VALERIA RICCIONI – On the 17th  July 2022 another attack in Lazio, this time against the RaiUno news programme journalist , Valeria Riccioni. The attack took place in Anzio, in front of the police station, where the reporter had gone to gather information on the killing of boxer Leonardo Muratovic. As a guest of Uno Mattina Estate (see here), Valeria Riccioni said: “I was sent to follow up on the murder. I went to Anzio in the morning, right on the seafront where the events had taken place, then in the early afternoon the father of the victim was arrested and I went to the police station. There I was violently attacked by two people verbally, fortunately the person who attacked me was blocked in time ”.

17-18 JULY – FRANCESCO DIGIORGIO – During  the night between 17th  and 18th  July 2022 unknown persons set fire to the journalist’s car, in the Altipiani di Arcinazzo, in the province of Rome (read here). The car, owned by the journalist’s partner, caught fire outside the house. The fire was probably started with petrol. The Order of Journalists of Lazio and the National Council of the Order expressed solidarity with the journalist: “The Order of Journalists of Lazio and the National Council express solidarity with Digiorgio for this premeditated attack. It will be up to  the investigators and the judiciary to ascertain the facts, but the incident is very serious and will be reported to the coordinating committee for the safety of journalists set up at the Ministry of the Interior. ”

23 JULY – JOURNALIST AND OPERATOR, FROM La Repubblica GIUSEPPE LA VENIA AND HIS TEAM FROM THE TG1 NEWS – They were threatened while taking photos of the fire that struck the pine forest of the Country Club of Castelfusano near Rome. “You can’t record, get down, if you and I square up …” If you have balls, come with me, I’ll tell you two little words, I have nothing to lose … “Do you think the police frighten me? I’ll give you whacks so that there are no odd numbers. There is nothing to film, nothing to hide “, shouted some custodians, throwing themselves above all against the reporter from La Repubblica, despite the presence of the local police, who did not intervene. A little later it was the owner of the Club, Prince Flavio Chigi, who accompanied the journalists to visit the destroyed bungalows, letting them enter from another access. Giuseppe La Venia of Tg1 said that the problems only arose with the guardians who did not let them in earlier.

The press in Rome later condemned the incidents raising  the alarm over the increasing difficulties of reporting from the field in the Lazio region(read here). The association of journalists in this region  has again reiterated that the crime of obstructing information, proposed together with Ossigeno per l’informazione, has been recognised by the Italian Parliament.

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