European Journalists Condemn Italian Prime Minister's Interference in Public Broadcasting

The European Federation of Journalists today protested after management of the Italian public television RAI decided to axe programmes made by Enzo Biagi and Michele Santoro, two journalists accused in April by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of "using the public television in a criminal way."

"This smacks of political victimization," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists. "Two months ago the Prime Minister lashes out at his media critics and today we have a new management appointed by the government who conveniently decide that the work of these distinguished journalists should be suppressed."

The European Federation of Journalists has accused Berlusconi of abusing his political position and role as Italy's leading media owner to influence media. "We have been warning for months about undue political interference in the Italian public broadcasting", says White. "These actions at RAI show that the situation is becoming intolerable."

The EFJ has demanded that Berlusconi resolves his conflict of interest and has protested to the European Union. The EFJ says journalists are inevitably intimidated when the Prime Minister owns the lion's share of the country's private media and advertising holdings and can, at the same time, choose who is to manage public television.

European-wide concerns are matched by fears at national level where the national journalists' unions, which is affiliated to the EFJ says the actions against Biagi and Santoro "concerns all journalists and all citizens." The General Secretary of the Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Paolo Serventi-Longhi, says that there is a legitimate suspicion that for private or political reasons of the Prime Minister, the management has been asked to put the two journalists aside. "How can journalists work in peace right now?" he asks.

The EFJ and the FNSI are calling on all journalists' organisations for solidarity.