The AEJ took part in a high-profile event in the Italian Senate on 2 July in which policy-makers and senior journalists pledged extra support to the vital work of the leading media freedom organisation Ossigeno per L’Informazione and publicised the recent launch of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom in Leipzig.
Leading Italian politicians and journalists present heard that as many as 30 Italian journalists are forced to live under permanent police protection because of threats of violence from the Mafia. Ossigeno is working with the Parliament’s Anti-Mafia Commission to reveal the full extent of the widespread intimidation and acts of violence committed against Italian journalists, which still remains largely unknown and unreported; and to put in place urgent new measures to protect media workers from physical attacks and harassment.
The Italian foreign Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, acknowledged in a message to the conference that the work of free media in Italy is being stifled. In his message Mr Gentiloni said: ‘ I believe that in Italy we cannot say that information is not free. I believe, however, that many journalists are not free: i.e. free to write the truth, free to inquire, free to exercise their profession at the best of their abilities.’
Renate Schreoder of the European Federation of Journalists delivered a wide-ranging account of the EFJ’s intensive work to protect the lives and work of journalists, including mapping and reporting of assaults and abuses, the End Impunity campaign, and the International aJederation of Journalist’ Safety Fund which gives practical support to journalists under attack.
Alberto Spampinato, the founder of Ossigeno, joined other influential speakers in saying that Italy’s draft Defamation Bill, which is still before parliament, fails to remove several severe defects of the existing legislation. Current laws have often been used to threaten journalists with prison sentences and exorbitant fines.
Full details of the Rome conference, including video and texts of Speakers’ presentations, are available on Ossigeno’s website.