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Over 1000 journalists threatened in 5 year. What can be done?

It happens in Italy, but nobody talks about it, no one wants to think about it. But something should be done to re-establish the freedom of the press and of expression: these are rights which have become optional, with grave consequences for the functioning of democracy.

Physical threats to journalists have increased by 400% over five years and very rarely the authors of such violences are actually punished. It so happens that on top of physical harassments (aggressions, damaged property, death threats, etc.), journalists are often hit by libel and complaints.

These are right abuses that happen under the sun with the precise intention of intimidating journalists, preventing the publication of inquiries and news, and which are possible thanks to a lacking and negligent legislation. Anyone with some criminal strength or economic resources or political power and wants to prevent the broadcasting of uncomfortable information useful to the public opinion. The impunity for the violent is almost absolute and whoever abuses rights hardly ever incurs into sanctions of some sort. The United Nations and other international forums have time and time again recommended that Italy stop these abuses.

The issue is worrying even from a quantitative perspective. The Ossigeno counter, constantly updated, has revealed that in the first six months of 2012, 206 Italian journalists have been threatened. Moreover, 325 were those intimidated in 2011 and over 600 during the four years before. Therefore, in the past six years more than one thousand journalists have been threatened, or about 2% of active professionals. Between 2006 and 2011 the progression has been greater than 400%. And these thousand cases are merely the tip of the iceberg, the more visible part of a much wider phenomenon: according to the latest yearly Ossigeno Report on Information, the phenomenon is about ten times more widespread.

“These figures may not sound bells of alarm”, the National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Pietro Grasso said while quoting the data from Ossigeno per l’Informazione. In the past few days the Commissar for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Nils Miznieks, who expressly named Italy while discussing the undisputed diffusion of threats against journalists, which is by now an unacceptable form of “camouflaged censorship” which would require much more active contrasting initiatives from the governing authorities.

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