Basilicata24.it: it’s been three months of crosses and death threats
Journalists from the online newspaper from Basilicata have been targeted for months have rebelled and have launched an appeal: help us! First replies by Region and Order
After a series of intimidating messages that began on November 2nd, when the threats started targeting people close to the journalists, the staff from the online newspaper of Potenza rebelled going public with the mysterious story and asking for solidarity. The first to answer the call was the President of the Region, followed by the regional president of the Order of Journalists, as well as Ossigeno.
“The first time it happened on November 2nd: the colleague, Mr Michele Finizio was stopped on the street and told ’Stop it or die’”. Since that day, as Ms Giusy Cavallo, director of the online magazine basilicata24.it, has been telling Ossigeno, she and her colleagues are being targeted by unknown persons, with crosses drawn on their cars, receiving intimidating letters and death threats. Until the last episode, on January 23rd, when a letter contained an ultimatum: the journalists were to accept the money and walk away, or otherwise on the 31st something bad would have happened to the journalists or people close to them.
THREATS – Mr Finizio, who is also the editorial director, does not know who the person who stopped him the first time was. On November 11th he received a second threat: he was stopped again, this time while he was in the car. Two persons told him: “We have prepared the wheelchair for you.” Then, on November 19th, he found 12 crosses engraved on the bodywork of his car. Other crosses were engraved on the evening of December 24th, this time on the side.
On January 2nd it fell to the director: he has found carved crosses on her car remained parked a few days in the office garage. The same evening she and her colleagues found under the door of the newspaper office a folded A4 sheet with death threats to Mr Eugene Bonanata, with a message and a photo depicting other crosses.
All incidents were reported to the Police. “We were advised to double check our cars: the evening of the 4th, once again, I found on my car parked in a friend’s house with other three crosses carved on it”, the director says.
The last episode occurred on January 23rd: in the office garage an envelope with a lighter and a piece of paper was found, with specific references and other threats to the lives of journalists and their families: “Go home, we will give you money. If you do not accepted by the 29th, on the 31st someone will have a serious accident. Do not make yourselves responsible for the suffering of innocents. Do not go to the Police, it’s useless” it said.
Basilicata24.it has decided to go public with these facts following this last threat, and published a first page opinion column from the director titled “We are not afraid, we will not stop” (Noi non abbiamo paura, noi non ci fermiamo). In it, the director wrote: “we are sending a message to these people. You are cowards, and even more of a coward is he who sends you. We are staying here. Your threats do not intimidate us. Indeed, your threats encourage us to continue. So you are also stupid. We never wanted to go public with these episodes, but perhaps now the time has come. For children are not to be touched. And just so you know how and why, and that maybe someone sees that we are not alone. For we are not lone right?”
INVESTIGATIONS? – At the moment, the journalists do not know if there are investigations on-going on the incidents of intimidation, nor do they have any protection. “We do not know what may have triggered the threats. Since the newspaper is run by a cooperative and was born in 2011, we dealt with many sensitive issues, such as the irregularity of the public administration, unresolved court cases, issues related to the environment, to oil, to sites awaiting reclamation. We have always told all sorts of anomalies that affect our territory, which is not like other regions dominated by the Mafia strictly speaking, but it is the target of a very sophisticated system of control “, Ms Cavallo says.
SOLIDARITY – Solidarity came from many readers, but the institutions followed especially after the news of the threats reached other local newspapers: “only later we received the message of the President of the Region Mr Marcello Pitella, and the phone call of the editor in chief of Basilicata for RAI. The TgR (the regional broadcasting news channel) has also given news of the threats in the evening edition of the 26th of January. The truth however is that we have never been recognized by the institutions, so that we have never been invited to a press conference of the Region or the Province of Potenza, while a little more open towards us was on the other hand the Province of Matera”, Ms Cavallo stated further.
The Order of Journalists of Basilicata released a statement signed by the President Mr Domenico Sammartino, who expressed “solidarity and closeness” to basilicata24.it along with the “earnest hope that the perpetrators of these cowardly acts are not only identified and called to account for them, isolated and shamed upon by the entire community of Basilicata, confirming the values of democracy and civilization (and of civil confrontation, even in the presence of different points of view) that characterize its history and its culture.”
To basilicata24.it also goes the solidarity of Ossigeno, which hopes the investigators to shed light on the threats as soon as possible. MF