Police plan to drop guard on reporter Sandro Ruotolo

The investigative journalist is at high risk because threatened by mafia. He is protected as other 21 his colleagues and other 564 people. These protection system works well but it is becoming too costly

The Italian Government is under pressure to reverse the decision to revoke, from 15.February, the armed escort granted in 2015 to the well-known journalist Sandro Ruotolo. The government granted him an armed scort to protect him from the Camorra clan Casalesi, whose boss had planned to kill him. 

It was reported on February 1 that the Italian law enforcement will withdraw Ruotolo’s protection. Later on February 5 the same organism put under the control of the government announced that nothing has been yet decided, together with the public commitment to review his risk persistence again.

Sandro Ruotolo has for many years been one of the most popular faces among public television journalists where he worked alongside Michele Santoro in programmes with high audience ratings. In particular, Sandro Ruotolo has carried out many investigations on the mafia and the Camorra. In the last year, he continued the same activity with the “Fanpage” web tv, which has its headquarters in Naples.

His fame explains why the announcement that he would remain without police escort has triggered a wave of social protests. Numerous public figures, parliamentarians, and representatives of the government have also protested.

Sandro Ruotolo confirmed his fears, breaking his public silence on February 4, when he released a public statement to Ossigeno, ECPMF’s Rome-based partner organisation His statement was carried by all the media. The next day, the heads of the Interior Ministry’s inventory office said that they would review that. At the moment, the only thing that is certain is that the protection will not end on February 15th, as was first announced.

Sandro Ruotolo is one of the 22 Italian journalists included in the system of protection of those at high risk due to threats to their personal safety. The last one, Paolo Berizzi, threatened by right wing extremists and nenazist movement, was added just yesterday. The threats that are taken in account come from gangs, terrorists, or other quarters. This system, which ECPMF will explore in detail in the coming weeks in a report based on its Italian Fact Finding Mission, has demonstrated considerable efficiency and effectiveness over the years. It is part of a wider system of armed security protection extended to all public figures who are deemed to be at risk due to threats received by themselves or discovered by investigators. Currently, the total number of public figures receiving this protection is 585 (including 21 journalists). It is a very expensive system that employs about two thousand agents of various law enforcement bodies and many armoured vehicles. To reduce costs, last November the Ministry of the Interior decided to check whether each of the 585 who are still being protected still need an armed escort. The withdrawal of Sandro Ruotolo’s escort would follow after one such check, but his case is still under review.

This comment signed by Alberto Spampinato was published on the web site of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom ECPMF see it

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