Journalists and police: an incident in Trieste

Four police officers ordered a reporter to leave a conference citing public order problems raised by the organizers.

Professor Claudia Cernigoi, enrolled in the Order of Journalists, has sent Ossigeno the following detailed report of an incident of which she was a victim. Ossigeno has recorded it among the incidents of intimidation and among those that demonstrate the necessity to start a dialogue between police and journalists to promote fuller respect for the prerogatives of workers in the media including initiatives that should take place in cities to promote the application of a Code of Conduct to whose formulation Ossigeno contributed.

Read here the Code of Conduct

PROF. CERNIGOI’S REPORT – On January 18th the conference was held in Trieste as announced on the Facebook page of the journalist Fausto Biloslavo.

Two things should be noted: in the upper left corner of the announcement the logo of the Municipality of Trieste, sponsor of the initiative, and at the bottom Biloslavo’s invitation “come to the presentation and judge”.

As a result, since the topic interests me (neo-Fascism and its various exponents are my object of study), I went to the Bazlen hall, the municipal hall, and took a seat. After a couple of minutes, I found four special branch police officers in front of me, and who I think was the senior officer started politely telling me that that I had to leave the room, because the conference organizers said that I was a “persona non grata” and therefore I was unable to attend the presentation. I decisively refused citing the fact that the hall is a municipal space, that it was not a private meeting but a public event and also that I am a registered journalist and that I intended to assert my right to report.

At this point the officers made clear if my presence in the room created a problem of public order, because I am unwelcome to someone, they must intervene and make me leave. I replied that if my merely silent and stationary presence in a public hall bothers someone, it is that someone who constitutes a public order problem, because I am not committing any crime, while the “someone” is obstructing my right. Finally, I ended by saying that I would not leave on my own two legs. They would have to have the Prefect sign an order to remove me and then they could take me away by force, because, unless something serious had happened in the last two hours, of which I was not yet aware, we are in a democracy that should guarantee me the right to attend conferences that interest me. Therefore, if the annoyance arises from others, my right should be protected by law enforcement agents who should not be endorsing the intimidating behaviour of others.

At that point the special branch security police officers moved away and when Biloslavo began his opening speech he said that “everyone has the right to speak” as well as “everyone has the right to participate”, and therefore as long as he is participating in a conference everyone can stay in the room, mentioning also my name so that everyone understood what the problem had been.

At the end of the conference I told the special branch security police officers who had remained “so it was you, not Biloslavo, who found my presence problematic, “. I was told that the problem of my presence had been raised by “someone” (un-identified), so that they had wanted to protect me by removing me. I disagreed saying that the protection would have consisted in guaranteeing me the possibility of remaining in the room without suffering threats or intimidation, not preventing me from exercising a constitutionally guaranteed right. And I cannot help but condemn that yet another intimidating act towards me came not so much from a member of the radical right (as happened over and over again), but precisely from those who instead of guaranteeing my constitutional rights, treated me as an “element of disturbing public order”.

Claudia Cernigoi, Trieste

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