World Journalists Back Strike by Italian Press: “A National Crisis, With Global Consequences”

The International Federation of Journalists today back a strike by Italian journalists and press workers over government policy in Italy which, says the Federation, highlights a “national crisis with global consequences for media freedom and rights of journalists.”

Journalists in Italy were staging a 24-hour national strike today to protest over perceived threats posed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to the country's freedom of the press.

The work stoppage was called by the Italian National Press Federation (FNSI) and involves newspaper, wire service and on-line journalists. Broadcast journalists are expected to strike on June 18.

Journalists in membership of the FNSI, an IFJ affiliate, have protested strongly over the conflict of interest involving Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who exercises a stranglehold on the national private television market and is able to influence the public broadcaster RAI.

In a statement, the National Press Federation said the protest was aimed at defending the autonomy of journalists and freedom of the press, which it said was ''increasingly at risk'' in Italy.

The industrial action was being linked to the resignations last month of Ferruccio de Bortoli, editor of the country's largest selling and most authoritative daily, Il Corriere della Sera. Many people working in media believe de Bortoli was forced out over the paper's critical coverage of the Berlusconi government and of a corruption trial currently involving the Prime Minister. Berlusconi has also been accused of seeking to expand his media empire by acquiring stakes in Il Corriere.

The IFJ says that journalists groups around the world support the action by the FNSI. “The menace of media concentration is threatening the quality of journalism and the fabric of pluralism in democracy,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Italian journalists are facing a national crisis but one that has significant global consequences.”

The IFJ says that media publishers and editors should give their support to the strikers. “Unless independent publishers and editors who believe in the notion of their independence raise their voices, then the power of media moguls like Berlusconi will continue to grow and press freedom will suffer,” says the IFJ.