L’Ora della Calabria becomes national case. And Gentile resigns
The national media aired the censorship episode reported by the newspaper of Cosenza after the Premier Mr Renzi had given the post of undersecretary to the Senator
The senator from the New Center Right Party, Mr Antonio Gentile, who was appointed Undersecretary of State for Infrastructure and Transport, resigned following the controversy over the case of the newspaper L’Ora della Calabria from Cosenza, since on February 19th it reported of an episode of censorship perpetrated by the senator. The story had captured in the last few days the attention of the national media and elicited numerous comments from politicians and unions.
THE RESIGNATION – Mr Gentile wrote his resignation letter to Mr Renzi and the President of the Republic Mr Giorgio Napolitano, saying: “I ask only for light to be shed on everything and that those who sought to make unacceptable judgments on my person shall repent before the third and objective truth written by the judges, and which already is present in my conscience”.
THE CONTROVERSY – Mr Gentile is alleged to have lobbied hard to avoid the publication of an article that told of his son ‘s involvement as a suspect in a criminal investigation. There is no evidence, but some believe that the political influence of the senator has weighed on the intervention of the printer of the newspaper and therefore made it a political question that proved that the task conferred by the President of the Council, Matteo Renzi, was not appropriate to be handed to the senator.
While members of his party have defended Mr Gentile, a petition asking for his resignation was launched on the Internet. Some journalists too had noted that it would have been better if Gentile resigned. The same request was made by members of the Movimento5Stelle and the Democratic Party (including the president of the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission Ms Rosy Bindi), and by the President of the Lombardy Region, Mr Roberto Maroni.
According to Ms Bindi, Mr Gentile could not have stayed at the post because the story reported by the newspaper from Calabria was “disturbing and opened a line of research deemed very important for the Commission: that is, the interplay between communication and the mafia”.
FNSI – The secretary of the National Press Federation (FNSI) M Franco Siddi commented: “the statements by the president Mr Renzi on the commitment to protect journalists threatened by the mafia, that are authentic civil heroes, has had a great importance and is an important signal. The final composition of his team showed, however, some contradictory signals for the freedom of the press, and pose another source of concern on which it will be well to be faced clearly and soon at the highest level”.
The appointment of Mr Gentile, he added, “was a cause for concern”. Another concerning appointment was to the post of undersecretary of justice given to Mr Cosimo Ferri “author of dozens of lawsuits against newspapers and journalists”, and that of deputy minister of the same ministry awarded to Mr Enrico Costa, “who has often lead in parliament draft laws for restrictions of the freedom of the press”, and which make him look “rather unsettling for the role of assurance he is supposed to have”.
ASR – The secretary of the Associazione Stampa Romana, Mr Paolo Butturini quoted the words of appreciation from the director of Ossigeno, Mr Alberto Spampinato, about the proximity the Prime Minister Renzi declared to the threatened journalists, claiming to share the opinion that it is an absolute novelty.
“I beg to report to the new Secretary with responsibility for the Publishing Sector, Mr Luca Lotti, as there is already an opportunity – as Mr Butturini added – to realize all the commitments: use the extraordinary Fund for the Publishing sector to give insurance coverage, at least in part, to all employees and freelancers who dealing with serious crimes locally, and who, because of their work, live under constant threat, both physically and legally. I ask the secretariat of the FNSI, which will certainly already have scheduled a meeting with Mr Lotti, to recount this story in order to give a little more freedom and a little more support to those co-workers and colleagues who, every day, defend the most precious valuable of democracy: and that is freedom of information”.
MR GENTILE’S VERSION – On his part, Mr Gentile has always denied having made any censorship attempt whatsoever: “I did not speak with the publisher, nor with the journalist, nor with the editor of the newspaper. After twenty days my son still hadn’t received any judicial notice. On this alleged news, L’Ora della Calabria has set up a campaign against me. It moved against me by an unprecedented machine of violence”, he added. He then recalled that the publisher of the newspaper of Cosenza, Mr Pietro Citrigno (father of Alfredo, who currently holds the position), is currently in prison for usury and is under investigation for other crimes.
“I announce from the outset that part of the proceeds of the damages that I will get from the complaints I shall give them to the widow of Mr Alessandro Bozzo, a free journalist, killed by his extortionists amidst the silence of all, and that when justice will condemn those who accuse, I myself will ask an apology from the directors of the major newspapers”, Mr Gentile also said before resigning.
REACTIONS – The calling into question of the judicial affairs of Mr Citrigno and of the suicide of the journalist Bozzo has sparked a strong reaction by the editorial board of the L’Ora della Calabria, its director and publisher, as well as the president of the Order of Journalists Mr Enzo Iacopino.
The newsroom committee of the newspaper announced its intention to sue the Senator Gentile “for the various distortions of which he has become a protagonist. Among these are those very serious that refer to our deceased colleague Mr Alessandro Bozzo, a name that Senator Gentile has no right even to speak, if not out of respect at least out of good taste good”.
The editor of the newspaper, Mr Luciano Regolo, who in the past few days published the audio recording of the phone call between the publisher and the printer Mr Umberto De Rose, in which the latter tries to convince the former not to publish the article on the senator’s son, and has written that “the Senator doesn’t give a fig about freedom of the press”, and “prefers to carry on a venomous confrontation with the publisher’s family”. Mr Regolo furthermore defined as “profiteering for intimidation purposes the hinting at the story of the suicide of a colleague, Alessandro Bozzo, who I never met but who is respected and loved by all of my colleagues. His death has nothing to do in this matter, and has nothing to do with our publisher, it has nothing to do with our staff, nor it has anything to do with the battle we are waging.”
The publisher Mr Alfredo Citrigno announced to have instructed its lawyers to sue Mr Gentile for what he said about how his family.
The President of the Order of Journalists, Mr Enzo Iacopino, said that “the undersecretary Mr Antonio Gentile has the right to defend himself. The right he does not have, however, is to connect his story to the tragedy of Alessandro Bozzo. The Order of Journalists – Mr Iacopino continues – knows very well who are the people involved, so much so that it has already decided to become a civil party in the trial that will be held on October 6th. Then, on the coming 15th of March, in Cosenza, there will be a ceremony to commemorate Alessandro. His family has asked me to be present, because neither I nor the Order of Journalists discover today about that shocking affair.”