Various clues suggested that in Sicily, among the big white knights of the anti-Mafia there were profiteers and swindlers, individuals and organisations respected and revered for their public commitment in favour of law abidance, who secretly commercially exploited their image and their influence to obtain finance and tenders, to build a career, to exchange favours with political figures and with business and organised crime. Numerous individuals had this information, had doubts, harboured suspicions. Nobody, however, had the courage to speak openly about it. To criticise these individuals would be like blaspheming in church. Even the newspapers kept quiet. It was 2014.
Then something changed. A journalist confronted the question with the most powerful means available to journalism: the investigation. He collected information, spoke with informed individuals, documented factual data, analysed this information and in the end reported them to the readers openly recognising the margins of doubt and uncertainty which still remained. At a certain point he revealed that a successful entrepreneur, bathed in incense as an anti-Mafia champion, one who at the time excelled as “the white knight of law abidance” as he was defined on the 9th February 2015 in the article which illuminated the situation like a lamp in the night, did not appear in reality so pure and immaculate, but instead he was suspected of Mafia association by two State Prosecutors of Sicily who three years later had him arrested together with around ten others and who are now preparing to try him.
That scoop of 2015 found little echo in the other newspapers. The author did not receive the public praise which he deserved but only trouble. The journalist was subjected to intimidations, denigration, threats, aggression and stalking. Pressure was put upon his editor to remove him from the investigation. His isolation was demonstrated also by the silence of the other newspapers.
The businessman is called Antonello Montante, the journalist Attilio Bolzoni.
We highlight this story, anguishing and at the same time edifying. We describe it in detail because – like other stories – for both good and bad aspects, it is revealing of the actual conditions in which journalists find themselves when they come across news not appreciated by those in power. It says that we are still living in the “upside down country” of “Pinocchio” who ended up in prison for having reported a robbery. It says that journalists are left dramatically alone when they reveal facts involving “the powerful people”. It says that in this country intimidatory pressure is strong, it can be overcome but only with great professionalism and at the cost of suffering and courage. Honour and solidarity, therefore, to Attilio Bolzoni.
These are the stories which we must know about, study, analyse, on which we must reflect if we really want to concern ourselves with the problems of journalism and journalists, the stories that explain why journalism is unable to report on many important stories which are happening anyway.
These problems are closely interlinked with the decline in the sale of newspapers and the employment crisis which is afflicting journalists. These problems are not new. This story brings many of them to light: the resort of many to self-censorship, the isolation of whomever breaks the silence, the rare professional solidarity, the risk of whomever reports uncomfortable and unappreciated truths to those in power….many of these problems have already emerged, in vain, in these years and with the powerful evidence of the facts, by many of the 3600 accounts published by Ossigeno.
One needs to find the correct remedies to resolve these problems, which concern not only journalists but also all their readers. Thus we should discuss them more, entering into the issue, admitting that not all the responses have to come from the government, from parliament and from the public authorities. Several responses must come really from journalists and the editors.