On April 2, Italian newspaper Domani revealed that prosecutors in the southern city of Trapani, Sicily, wiretapped hundreds of phone conversations between reporters and charity staff while investigating the potential involvement of NGOs in human smuggling.
Prosecutors secretly listened to hundreds of phone conversations between journalists and their sources, in a clear breach of their right to professional confidentiality and protection of sources.
Following media reports, the Italian justice minister, Marta Cartabia, formally launched an investigation and sent inspectors to research the alleged serious violations of reporters' rights.
Freelance journalist Nancy Porsia had her phone tapped for several days resulting in the personal details and the names of her sources being collected, while also tracking her movements using her mobile phone’s geolocation facility.
IFJ affiliate FNSI joined forces with media freedom campaigners in a letter to the Italian government and European Union officials urging a "swift and systematic investigation" to help to "rebuild trust and ensure that all journalists, sources and legal professionals in Italy are protected". The IFJ has supported the call.
The case was also reported to the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism.
FNSI General Secretary, Raffaelle Lorusso, said: "Thank you to the Minister of Justice, Marta Cartabia, for sending inspectors to the Trapani Public Prosecutor's Office. It is necessary to shed light on a disturbing and unacceptable affair. It is not enough to say that the interceptions will be destroyed, it is necessary to clarify and explain why several journalists not under investigation for any crime have been subjected to interception, trampling on Article 21 of the Constitution and the right to protection of sources".
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: "Journalists' right to secrecy of sources is recognised as deserving of protection by the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and no one can simply ignore it for any reason. We stand in solidarity with the affected journalists and urge the Italian authorities to guarantee this does not happen again. The protection of sources is the cornerstone of press freedom".