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Puglia. Death threats to journalist Antonio Loconte

“This specific act shows that we have carried out a great job by scoring a direct hit on the targeted problem”, Antonio Loconte, 35 year-old chief executive of Quotidiano Italiano newspaper, said

It is his belief that the anonymous letter he received at his residence on Tuesday, 17 September is linked to his investigative reports on the 118 emergency medical service (EMS) system in Bari and other provinces of Puglia.

The connection appears straightforward as the note in the letter, made up of newspaper cutouts, reads “118 – Loconte – dead man walking”. The letter is postmarked a few days before with and the address is hand-written.

For the past year, Loconte has been writing articles regarding how the emergency medical service is provided within his region, Puglia, exposing inefficiency and alleged irregularities. Emergency medical services in Italy currently consist primarily of a combination of volunteer organizations providing ambulance service, supplemented by physicians and nurses who perform all advanced life support procedures. Such organizations contract agreements with the Italian National Health Service (NHS), although, in Puglia, the terms of those agreements “are not fulfilled as they should be, in many instances”, Loconte explained, in reference to both the use of non-homologated vehicles and embezzlement by the presidents of some organizations.

“My newspaper”, Loconte added, “criticizes the fact that the EMS system should not rely on voluntary associations to such a great extent”.

Loconte’s newspaper also published revelations by a regional official about organizations that use unauthorized emergency vehicles. The critical reaction to such revelations seems to confirm Loconte’s allegations.

“We intend to keep exposing these facts so that NHS leaders in Puglia might consider revising 118 EMS”, Loconte said. Admittedly, it seems like something has shifted since Loconte received the threatening letter on the exact same day that PDL regional council member Maurizio Friolo wrote to Dino Maurino, president of the III regional Health Board, asking for a depositionub of both Loconte and Health-councilor Elena Gentile, with regard to the facts reported in Quotidiano Italiano.

“The letter has been specifically sent to my residence meaning I am the one they want to harm. I read it as I was coming back home with my wife and my three-month-old son. My wife read it as well, which worried me even more, but she is amongst those who support and encourage me to carry on”, Loconte explained.

Loconte reported the incident to the authorities the following day, at the Police prefecture of Bari, and handed them the letter, now held as evidence, hoping forensics will examine it.

Expressions of solidarity for Loconte came from Assostampa Puglia, 118 Apulia volunteers, president of the regional Health Board Dino Marino, Cotes (Territorial Emergency Service Plan) of Lecce, Senator Luigi Lettieri, as well as from many citizens and local politicians.

Tradotto da Giuseppe Scardigno

Revisionato da Cristina Di Battista

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