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What if the defendant says: punish the journalist. A comment

The invectives against Tizian after the attacks at the hearing against Giacalone and those of 2008 against Capacchione and Saviano require stronger institutional positions

Friday, May 16th, in Bologna, during a hearing at the Tribunal, Mr Nicola Femia, accused of mafia association and detained for 14 months, has railed threateningly against judges and journalists. He said that it was not fair to blame him, but rather it should be the journalist who deserves to be punished, for it was him and his news articles to have put him in trouble with the judiciary.

The judge took his word before he could pronounce the name of Giovanni Tizian, the journalist who since December 2011 has been living under police protection following the interception of a telephone conversation during which the same Femia and an entrepreneur planned to shoot him in the mouth and putting an end to his exclusive investigations, which disturbed the video poker racket. Because of those threats, Tizian stands as a witness and defendant.

The outrageous behaviour of the accused, because of its intimidating importance, has raised alarm and concern and made ​​it necessary to further strengthen the security measures for Giovanni Tizian. There have been claims of solidarity with the journalist. But the episode has not sparked the civil mobilization which so arrogant and unacceptable a public proclamation of hostility towards the civil function of journalism deserves. A journalism that in Italy is the subject of intense and continuous hostile campaigns that are under the eyes of all, and which the Observatory on Information of Ossigeno has been documenting.

It is not the first time that people linked to the Mafia in Italy claim to use the place where the justice according to the laws of the State is celebrated as a platform from which to issue threats and condemnations against journalists who have the courage to recount facts that disturb the clans’ business.

It had happened in Trapani, on March 7th, 2013 at the trial for the murder of the journalist Mr Mauro Rostagno, with the absurd request to the Court, by a defender of those standing accused of murder, to censor the news reports of Mr Rino Giacalone. Another dramatic episode occurred in 2008, in Naples, during the Spartacus trial against the leaders of the Casalesi clan of the Camorra, where the targets were the journalist Ms Rosaria Capacchione and  the journalist-writer Mr Roberto Saviano, who were also targeted because of their reports. It has happened many other times.

Fortunately, the judges and the police are doing their part. But the civil society, politics, the institutions, the world of journalism, what are they doing while facing the repetition of these facts? They do very little. They should do more, they should have a more active role in the defence before the public opinion, the sense of justice and the role of journalism, explaining that this role for democracy, exercised free from threats and constraints, is irreplaceable.

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