EFJ Condemns Berlusconi's Media Vendetta

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

women.

"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

the land."

For

more information contact the EFJ at +32.2.2352200
The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in

over 30 European countries.