The latest BAD NEWS from Italy by Ossigeno

10 January 2019 – This newsletter presents originally news published by Ossigeno per l’Informazione about attacks and violations of freedom of expression and media freedom in Italy as well as in other countries. Also included are initiatives to tackle the issue with a review from international organisations in the field of freedom of expression

Focus on the Conference for the International Day to End Impunity held in Rome

On 22nd October 2018, Ossigeno led  the Italian commemorations for the  the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI) promoting a public conference held at the Italian Senate  in the “Koch Hall”. The conference also constituted a recognised training course for the one hundred journalists attending it. It was organised in cooperation with the Order of Journalists of the Lazio Region and in the framework of the activities of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF). The event received the official patronage of UNESCO. The full conference in English can be watched here

In recent  years,Ossigenohas taken  the opportunity of IDEI to present updated data and figures on impunity for crimes against journalists in Italy. Over the last year, the impunity rate for threats and intimidation against journalists has fallen significantly, by eight per cent. This is a result of the greater determination and the continuous commitment of the police and the judiciary. It was emphasized as an important development. However, it seemed right to point out that even with this significant improvement the rate of impunity still stands at 90.1 per cent, which indicates a very high, almost total , impunity. Therefore, the situation remains highly worrying because impunity encourages the violent and the overbearing individuals to commit other threats, intimidation and retaliation.

At the Conference, Ossigenorecalled the commitments made by parliamentarians at other similar conferences in 2015, 2016 and 2017. It was underlined that none of those commitments has been honoured. This year the government representatives who participated in our Conference made commitments  to face up to and resolve the double knot of irresponsible lawsuits and the limitations upon the professional secrecy of journalists. It is the first time that a government has broached this subject and this alone already stands as a positive step.

The figures presented during the Rome conference are as follows:

  • in the period 2006-2018, the same period in which the 1010 journalists recorded by UNESCO as being  killed in the rest of the world, 3721(were 3406 one year ago) journalists and bloggers in Italy were attacked
  • in the period 2011-2018, there were 3122 attacks on journalists identified by Ossigeno. The Observatory has calculated on this sample the percentage of impunity which amounts to 3%
  • in the last year (October 2017-October 2018) Ossigeno has identified in Italy 316new attacks and 31 cases of punishment of the aggressors for these attacks and other attacks over the years. This enables us to say with a good approximation that the trend rate of impunity is 1%. We will refine this data and verify it in the coming months if the emerging trend is confirmed.

The event saw the participation of several high level authorities and government representatives. Keynote speaker was Mr. Guy Berger, Director of the Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO. Mr. Berger emphasised that “the monitoring mechanism and the method that are used by Mr Spampinato and his team is something that leads the world”.“This– he added –is the result of an intense effort of prevention and protection, the fruit of cooperation among magistracy, security forces, the Ministry of the Interior, the media and exponents of civil society such as Ossigeno”. Guy Berger cited Italy as a positive example also for the battle against organised crime. He had realised this after meeting in Vienna, the national anti-Mafia prosecutor Cafiero De Raho at the conference of interested parties at the UN Convention on the fight against organised crime.“Congratulations to Ossigeno”– he concluded turning to the participants in the Senate’s Koch Hall – “also because this meeting today is the first celebration this year in Europe and probably in the world, of the UN International Day to put an end to impunity for crimes against journalists that is held on the 2nd November each year”.

Ms. Dunja Mijatovic, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, who had promised to come but  could not be present sent instead a written message where she highlighted that “The activity of Ossigeno provides a good example of how we can help  implement what the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and the UN have often recommended to the Member States”. In addition , the Commissioner thanked Ossigeno for the organization of the event and congratulated it “for its work over many years of raising awareness of the safety of journalists in Italy and, bringing to light cases of attacks that would otherwise remain largely unknown.”.Dunja Mijatovic underlined that Italy can play a leading rôle in supporting initiatives to protect journalists. “Despite everything– she said, remembering the journalists killed in the past and the dangerous threats today –you, in Italy, have managed to preserve a very lively and diverse press and the police and the magistrates have provided journalists with life-saving protection measures for years. Furthermore, associations of journalists and non-governmental organizations constantly monitor freedom of the press “.

Government Representative Mr. Vito Crimi, Undersecretary for the publishing sector, presented the government’s measures for free, plural and independent journalism. Crimi referred, in particular, to the bill presented by Senator Primo Di Nicola which provides, in the case of reckless complaints, compensation up to half the amount requested by the plaintiff. It is also necessary to “activate measure  to counter the conflict of economic and financial interests of publishers. Finally, more education for young people regarding information, pluralist and freely accessible to the profession, independent of politics “.

Mr. Luigi Gaetti, Undersecretary of the Interior, referred to the intimidating and Mafia-style attacks combined with job insecurity which undermine freedom of expression. Hence, “To create real freedom we must give journalists their just recognition. We cannot allow young people who write important articles to be paid in small change. We must meet their needs, because job insecurity is a limit to the freedom of expression “.

Senator Mr. Pietro Grasso, former President of the Senate emphasised that, “If a reporter gives up reporting, it is the country which is defeated. The news that between September and October there were convictions of the clan of Ostia and the boss who threatened Borrometi – both with the aggravating factor of their Mafia method – finally leads us to a cautious, but vital, optimism. There is not and there should be no space for those who threaten the freedom of the press “Looking at the data on impunity the Senator noted that it would be tempting to stop reporting and making inquiries. “I –he said – for my part, can only say that I am proud of those who have never lowered their heads in the face of threats.”

Mr. Angelo Marcello Cardani, President of the Italian Authority for Communication Guarantees (AGCOM), stated that “In this period of great instability” “the constitutional bodies must pay particular attention because in this phase public intervention is fundamental. The new technology is asserting itself effortlessly, relying on its capacity to produce information, on its speed and its viral nature and thus on its dissemination. Even if there are many positive aspects” – the Agcom president underlined –“we must be concerned about the negative aspects and preserve the printed media which has a tradition of informing in a complete way, with comprehensive argumentation  providing not only information but opportunities for reflection. This is the true task of information: to provide the elements which can lead to discussion. One cannot permit a channel of vital sap to be obstructed in complex and multilateral ways.”

Ms. Paola Spadari, President of the Order of Journalists of Lazio, acknowledged the importance of the Ossigenoconference which offered important insights on how to progress the work of journalists. “The change of pace is useful but not enough and we, as a sector, must not relinquish our commitment”. For Spadari, it is necessary to raise public awareness so that citizens  join journalists in requesting free and independent information as a value common to all.

The social media activity for the event reached 10,650 users on Twitter and 6,978 on Facebook as a result of live posts and tweets during the international conference  “Journalists threatened, attackers unpunished”,organised by Ossigeno per l’Informazione on the 22nd October in Rome at the Italian Senate, under the patronage of UNESCO, to celebrate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI). Ossigenoregistered a good performance on social media with a remarkable interaction both on Facebook and Twitter with a total of 16,000 views on all social media.

Also the conference participants, among whom many journalists, institutional representatives and international speakers posted and tweeted comments as well as pictures of the event with the hashtags #InpunityDay, #IDEI 2018 and #Ossigenoinfo.

In figures: 55 retweets and 48 likes on Twitter, 116 actions on Facebook posts.

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For comments or inquiries please email us at ossigeno.informazione@gmail.com

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