From 2015 until 2018 the journalist Attilio Bolzoni has faced intimidations, retaliations and serious calumnies from people who have sought to block him by instilling fear, isolating him and discrediting his personal and professional reputation to make him falsely appear as a partisan journalist and even linked to the Mafia. Bolzoni is one of the most distinguished Italian journalists. For forty years he has written articles about and investigations into the Mafia and organised crime, firstly for the daily L’Ora and then since 1982 up until today for La Repubblica. He has written numerous books about the Mafia and is considered one of the leading Italian experts on the subject. He is one of the founders of Ossigeno per l’Informazione.
Several of the authors of the unjustifiable attacks are unknown whereas others have been identified and arrested in May 2018 with the charge of associating to commit offences. Several aggressions have been directed against relatives of the journalist.
Attilio Bolzoni became a target whilst he was gathering information about the alarming hypothesis, supported by various indicators, that a well-known public figure, the Sicilian entrepreneur Antonello Montante, publicly lauded as a champion of legality and commitment against the Mafia was, in reality, secretly involved in episodes of corruption and collusion with criminal elements. The attacks against Bolzoni intensified after the 9th February 2015 that is, after La Repubblica published his scoop in which he revealed that the magistracy harboured the same suspicions and was investigating the entrepreneur.
The “fake” Anti-Mafia
Since the autumn of 2014 Bolzoni has conducted a wide-ranging in depth journalistic investigation on the so-called “fake anti-Mafia” that is on the fact that some associations publicly promoting initiatives to raise awareness about organised crime were at the same time beneficiaries of finance, favours or funds coming from the same elements accused by them of illegal activity. The Italian Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission chaired by the Hon. Rosy Bindi has also devoted attention to this issue.
Bolzoni, inter alia, had gathered information which raised suspicions and serious doubts on the rôle actually carried out in the last ten years in the struggle against the Mafia by “Confindustria Sicily” and in particular by its leading exponent, the entrepreneur Antonello Montante. Montante, 55 years old, president of association of Sicilian businessmen, whose special assignment as a delegate to the national Confindustria was legal compliance , sponsor of various anti-Mafia initiatives, a friend of powerful politicians, closely linked to senior officials in the Ministry of the Interior and in the intelligence services, publicly known and appreciated as the inspirer and advocate of a radical new approach, adopted from 2007 onwards by the organisation most representative of Italian industrialists to emphasize the commitment of Italian businessmen against the Mafia and above all against the “pizzo” (i.e., protection money).
The intimidations and the retaliations against Bolzoni appeared immediately after the 9th February 2015 when he and another journalist of La Repubblica, Francesco Viviano, availing themselves of confidential sources, revealed in an exclusive article, the astonishing news that in Sicily, that two Prosecutors of the Italian Republic were conducting parallel judicial investigations into this powerful and spotless Sicilian industrialist.
The article revealed that Antonello Montante was being investigated (that is to say, the subject of investigations by the magistracy) for external support for a Mafia activity, an offence which envisages imprisonment for one to seven years.
In May 2018 there was a dramatic development in the investigations. Antonello Montante was arrested (he is still in prison) accused of heading a criminal association aimed at corruption and of having spied upon those who were investigating him.
That article of the 9th February 2015 entitled, “Antonello Montante, the white knight of the anti-Mafia is investigated in Sicily for Mafia activities” written together with Francesco Viviano (read here) was sensational because up until then Montante was known as a shining example of honesty and for his commitment in favour of law abidance. The article of Bolzoni and Viviano showed the powerful businessman in a quite different light. Up until then the various articles in which Bolzoni had pointed the finger at the substantial financial interests which revolved around the so-called “fake anti-Mafia” had led to resentful reactions but nothing more.
After the publication of the article somebody sent anonymous letters to the public authorities accusing the journalist of being linked to the Mafia. Several professional associations and the national anti-racket federation of Tano Grasso adopted a stance in favour of the entrepreneur Montante issuing statements of solidarity.
Every means was sought to discredit Bolzoni, chipping away at his reputation as an honest individual and as a noted investigative journalist respected for his competence and his objectivity. Several policemen conducted unauthorised checks on him. There was an illegal “access” to the central computer system of the Ministry of the Interior to see if there were any pending charges against him . There were manoeuvres to isolate him, pressure was put on his editor (which was returned to the sender). The journalist became aware of being stalked by unknown persons and experienced violent intrusions into his private life. These events he reported to the authorities.
The prosecutor of the Italian Republic in Caltanissetta and the police of the mobile squad of the city have ascertained these episodes and have referred to them in the reports compiled at the conclusion of their investigations into the “white knight of law-abidance” Antonello Montante. Open manoeuvres and lies were uncovered aimed at discrediting the author of the scoop, thus removing in this way all credibility from his work as an investigative journalist, in order to isolate him, and to have the task of following up this affair for the daily La Repubblica taken away from him.
The resulting isolation and the silence of other newspapers have been a heavy burden to bear. One can count on the fingers of one hand, the journalists who, besides Bolzoni, have published articles on the sensational judicial inquiry in the three years following the investigation which ended with the arrest of Montante. Beginning in 2016 the silence has been broken by Mario Barresi of La Sicilia of Catania and fairly regularly by Salvo Palazzolo of the daily newspaper La Repubblica. No other voices have been heard nor references to the intimidation, the attacks and the various initiatives which have sought to discredit Attilio Bolzoni.
All the episodes which we have listed have only come to be noticed after Antonello Montante was arrested on the 14th May 2018. Besides Montante other individuals (among which a senior official of the secret service and the head of security at Confindustria) have ended up in prison. Around another twenty persons are being investigated (among whom, the former president of the Italian Senate Renato Schifani, the new president of “Sicindustria” (the Sicilian branch of Confidustria) Giuseppe Catanzaro, the businessmen Totò Navarra and Carmelo Turco, the former president of the Sicilian Regional Government Rosario Crocetta and a member of his regional council, a woman).
In the arrest warrant the judge who authorised the arrest of Montante referred explicitly to the 2015 scoop of Bolzoni acknowledging that that article revealed true facts and had been done in a correct way. Elsewhere in the arrest warrant it is disclosed that among the papers confiscated by the police from the Sicilian industrialist there is an anonymous letter sent in November 2015 to the directors of Confindustria Sicilia. In the letter it is alleged that, “Bolzoni doesn’t go around as a journalist but rather as an associate of the Mafia”. This detail of the judicial inquiry was made public very prominently by Bolzoni himself with an article in the daily La Repubblica (read here) in which, inter alia, the journalist confirms having harboured a suspicion about the author of that anonymous letter and having some idea about how to identify him.
Pressures on the editors
The Anti-Mafia Commission of the Sicilian Region has held numerous hearings over the arrest of Montante. On the 13th June 2018 the Commission heard Bolzoni. The Commission learned from the journalist that after the publication of the news of the judicial inquest into Antonello Montante, the mayor of Catania, Enzo Bianco exercised pressure upon the editor and the chief editor the daily “La Repubblica” so that they would remove from Bolzoni the task of following that inquest. Bolzoni made clear that the editor and the chief editor informed him immediately and encouraged him to proceed calmly with his work. The mayor Enzo Bianco has denied having exercised undue pressure and has begun a lawsuit for defamation.
This is the comment from Bolzoni, “I am calmly awaiting the lawsuit from the former mayor but I am certain that he will never present it because he would find himself in a situation still more unpleasant than the one into which he has slid. In the case of a lawsuit I would be compelled to demonstrate that there were those pressures and therefore I would be compelled to show in the Tribunal the e-mails in which Bianco himself displays all his agitation because of my investigative journalism into Montante.”
Attilio Bolzoni is one of the founders of Ossigeno per l’Informazione and has on several occasions informed, confidentially, senior members of the Observatory about the intimidations to which he has been subjected because of his journalism activity.
These intimidations became universally known only after the arrests of the 14th March 2018 even if, as we refer elsewhere (see here) already two years before on the 2nd February 2016 Bolzoni had outlined in an institutional setting a very precise picture of what was happening in Sicily around those whom he had described as the “white knights of law abidance” and around the “Montante system”.