The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the regional group of the
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says Italian Prime Minister
Berlusconi is putting press freedom to the sword by launching a legal vendetta against
media at home and abroad for reporting on his troubled personal life.
"It's understandable that Prime Minister Berlusconi wants to keep his
colourful personal life out of the headlines," said Aidan White, IFJ and EFJ
General Secretary. "But he puts press freedom at risk by trying to use the law
to intimidate journalists and to stifle media reporting."
The EFJ says that Berlusconi often used his power as both media magnate
and political leader to intimidate media and individual journalists, but this
time he "has stepped over a line by trying to stifle embarrassing but
legitimate journalism at both home and abroad."
On 28 August, Mr. Berlusconi sued the daily La Repubblica simply for having publicly asked him ten questions .
At the same time, the daily Il Giornale owned by the Berlusconi family is attacking the catholic paper Avvenire. Moreover, Mr. Berlusconi is suing
French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, and
reports say his lawyers
are looking into the possibility to sue British papers --including the ones
owned by his former "friend" Rupert Murdoch.
All of this follows intense media interest in his personal life
including his divorce and controversy surrounding his relationships with young
"What happened is incredible," said Franco Siddi, President of the
IFJ affiliate Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Italiana (FNSI). "This
complaint against La Repubblica and
the attack on Avvenire are evidence
of spectacular intimidation of media or journalists who ask questions, express
opinions or even discuss the influence of Mr. Berlusconi's private life in
politics. He should know that in democracy there are limits to his power."
The EFJ says Berlusconi's onslaught against the press
over his personal behaviour is unacceptable, in Italy or elsewhere. The attack on Avvenire, a respectable newspaper of the
church, has added to public indignation over his actions, which many observers
believe damage his international reputation.
The EFJ is
backing the FNSI in their demands for Berlusconi and his political allies to
respect independent and free media in Italy. "Journalists and media must stand firm in
defence of the principles of press freedom and quality journalism," said White.
"And particularly so when the threat comes from the most powerful politician in
more information contact the EFJ at +32.2.2352200
The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in
over 30 European countries.