IFJ Welcomes Italian President Backing for Pluralism but Warns of New Threat to Media

The IFJ has welcomed this week's defence of public service broadcasting by the Italian President, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. It represents a major breakthrough at the heart of Italian politics in support of media pluralism, and opens up a new front in the campaign against Silvio Berlusconi's undue influence over the Italian media system.

President Ciampi addressed the Italian Parliament on 23 July calling for more pluralistic and impartial information in the country, and for a guarantee of the "central role of public broadcasting as a democratic, social and cultural requirement of each society", as stated by the Treaty of Amsterdam.

This major intervention on the situation of the media, exceptional for an Italian President, occurs amid growing concerns over the control that Prime Minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi is imposing over Italian media. The IFJ, as well as several international organisations including the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, have condemned the flagrant conflict of interest in the past months. The European Commission has also registered a complaint for violation of the EC Treaty.

"It is a great step forward for Italian journalists and for the information rights of the citizens," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White, "finally Mr. Berlusconi is confronted by political forces on his own ground. He and his governmental coalition cannot disregard the absurd situation of the media in the country anymore. It is time to create a meaningful end to the continuing conflict of interest and to take RAI out of the game of political football in which it has been involved over the last years."

Despite these positive developments, the IFJ raises concern over the impact of a new draft law which could increase the threat of media concentration and reinforce the commercial stranglehold on journalism, which would reduce media quality. "The call for a new regulation should not mean a green light for further corporate control of the media market. There must be minimum guarantees for editorial independence and journalists rights", said Aidan White.