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Intimidations. Denounce them one at a time? It is not enough. A comment

The dimensions of the phenomenon need to be given. An open and public discussion is needed to make everyone understand what are the duties and obligations of journalists

The lukewarm reactions to the last attack of intimidation launched by BeppeGrillo’s blog against a journalist confirm that it is no longer enough to condemn one intimidation at a time. A way must be found to let the general public know that in this country it is not a single, occasional journalist who is a victim of threats, but that every day many journalists are being targeted from those who want to obstruct their work. It is necessary to make clear that these intimidations, taken together, are now a problem for our democracy. Because there are many episodes occurring, and many go unpunished. Because most are successful without the public ever knowing about them.

It is unwise to express solidarity to a victim at a time, for it isolates it the unfortunate turn by the context in which they fit these episodes. Every time news is given of a new intimidation, the need growsto say that in Italy the attempts to impose censorship through arrogant and violent methods, through intimidations and threats and abuses, are becoming more frequent. Every time solidarity is given to a journalist, it is necessaryto recall all the other victims of intimidation in this country. It something that must be said, where the worrying scale of the problem and the serious consequences it produces must be known, for these are limiting to the flow of information of great public interest.

A newspaper, a professional association, must say these things when defending a journalist that is a victim of intimidation. For the sake of completeness of the information, always say how many other intimidations of the same kind have already occurred. For example, when reporting what happened to TommasoCiriaco, the parliamentary reporter for La Repubblica verbally attacked by Grillo’s blog, it would be interesting to know how many other political commentators have suffered the same kind of intimidation from the same blog, and other subjects.

It would have been helpful to tell readers thatin Italy, unfortunately, not only TommasoCiriacobuthundreds of journalists must defend themselves from prosecution because they did their job well. In Italy, this uncivilized treatment is reserved each year to more than three hundred talented reporters, such as those of which Ossigeno has published the names and stories. These journalists, just as TommasoCiriaco, through themselves right in the middle of events, theyconsume theirshoes’ soles, they speak with all interested parties, read little-known documents, explain the context, the moods, the feelings and the on-going machinations, without ever settling for partial or official versions.

It is a very serious case to publicly denigrate and use threatening tones against journalists who do these things. It is very serious to realize that many good people see these attacks as good-natured scolding, whilethey are in fact outright intimidations,which no good cause can justify. it must be made clear to everyone that journalists have a duty to collect information in the public interest, and that their task is not an easy one. A battle which must be fought also refraining from suggestive slogans that can set in motion the deranged, as we have seen in recent days in Genoa, where two activists of the Five Star Movement have tried to move from words to facts, and it took a while before they were calmed down.

It is also necessary to expect a lot from reporters, but because of such a complex and delicate job, mistakes can be made and, therefore, accepted. The margins of error are there, and are known in democratic societies, where they are commonly accepted following the view of the social purpose of journalism, as much as the attested practice of providing a way to correct errors in good faith or complete partial information. This allows publishing more precise articles and useful corrections to the interested parties. What is certain is that controversial news cannot be corrected with insults, nor with the denigration of the reporters, let alone the menacing pointing out for public ridicule of those who have the courage to challenge the official versions.

These things should be shared peacefully in a country like Italy, but they are not. Therefore, it is necessary to open a public discussion, even with BeppeGrillo and his bloggers. It should not be difficult to be understood and to make everyone understand that the readers of newspapers, the watchers of television news programs and blog users may know what happens only if it is possible to publish also unwelcome news, if those who produce the information are not intimidated or criminalized. It should not be difficult, because these are the universal principles of freedom of information, which is an essential component of democracy.

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