The Ministry of the Interior takes into account only official crime reports, leaving out both those who do not formally report the abuses and the vexatious lawsuits.
There is a substantial difference (6 to 12 times) between the number of intimidations of journalists in Italy reported in the statistics of the Ministry of the Interior and the number of intimidations published by Ossigeno per l’Informazione (Oxygen for information). Those published by Ossigeno are much more numerous. How can such a remarkable difference be explained?
To this question posed by numerous journalists, Ossigeno answers as follows. It derives from the fact that the monitoring criteria adopted differ. We have been able to ascertain just as everyone should be able to do, by comparing the Oxygen Method already published for years, with the restricted method adopted by the Centre of the Ministry of the Interior which, however, has not yet been made public. It is time their method was explained just as for anyone who publishes statistics and wants them to be appreciated and understood.
Meanwhile, those who want to understand the state of the situation can learn about it by reading below.
THE INTERIOR MINISTRY – On January 10th 2020, during the meeting at the Interior Ministry of the “Coordination Centre for monitoring, analysis and exchange of information on intimidating acts against journalists”, the Ministry of the Interior defined the trend of this phenomenon in the last two years as “substantially stable” and has indicated the number of acts of this type detected in 2019 as 74, compared to 73 in 2018.
The official press release adds that “these episodes (of 2019) are attributable to different networks and motivations, grouped into broad categories: acts from organized crime syndicates (14 incidents in 2019), acts attributable to socio-political reasons (28 incidents in 2019) and acts arising from other contexts (42 incidents in 2019) “.
OSSIGENO – In the same two-year period Ossigeno per l’Informazione identified the following number of intimidations and threats against journalists and bloggers: 433 in 2019 and 959 in 2018. The significant difference from one year to the next does not reflect an improvement in the situation, but instead reflects the impact of a substantial reduction of the Observatory’s economic and professional resources available to observe the phenomenon.
WHAT DIFFERS – Ossigeno’s and the Interior Ministry’s data are not contradictory. The gap seems to be due simply to the different monitoring criteria and the different categories observed.
It should come as no surprise that the Interior Ministry does not take into consideration everything related to the justice sector (unfounded disputes, vexatious lawsuits, acquittals, dismissals of the action, convictions), which covers a great deal, as revealed by the data of the Ministry of Justice published in 2016 (each year there are thousands of unfounded and vexatious lawsuits (Read the dossier KEEP QUITE OR I’LL SUE). These have been confirmed recently by Istat according to which within a few years the number of unfounded complaints has almost doubled and in 2017 alone 64 journalists were sentenced to prison terms for the offence of libel, convictions that according to international institutions have an undeniable intimidating effect.
THE OSSIGENO METHOD – Ossigeno’s monitoring criteria are open and transparent. They have been set out since 2014 in the methodology, known to all institutions and to anyone who wants to learn about them (read here). According to its methodology, Ossigeno does not limit itself to counting the intimidation and threats for which journalists submit a formal complaint to the police or for which the police themselves directly acquire a report of a crime.
Ossigeno goes beyond this and takes into account further incidents:
1) those concerning bloggers, photojournalists and video makers;
2) those which while representing violations of the right to information (as defined by article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights), do not translate into a crime report, either because they are not formally reported to the investigators (for various and understandable reasons), or because they are not punishable by law;
3) deliberate acts to obstruct access to information (such as selective exclusion from press conferences or public events),
4) unjustifiable abuse (such as the seizure of archives and working tools of journalists by judicial police bodies without a judge’s warrant or threatening a reporter for having simply telephoned a judge, the forced removal of reporters from public areas where events of general interest are taking place, all examples drawn from very recent incidents).
Ossigeno believes that it is necessary to keep this wider universe under observation if one wants to know more fully the extent and trend of the phenomenon and to understand those incidents that require particular and urgent assistance for the victims.
ASP and GFM