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RSF 2015 Index: in Italy less press freedom

In the annual ranking of Reporters Sans Frontières Italy downgrades 24 positions, because of threats to journalists and proceedings for defamation

Italy slips from 49th to 73th place on the 180 countries considered in the ranking of press freedom prepared annually by Reporters Without Borders. The non-governmental organization that monitors the status of health information in the world, downgrades our country of 24 positions from last year, based on updated data of 2014 provided by Ossigeno per l’Informazione. The numerous intimidations against journalists, particularly attacks by organized crime, and the proliferation of lawsuits and prosecutions for libel, many of them promoted by politicians, are among the factors that motivated the decision.

WORLDWIDE – The ranking is based on seven indicators: the level of abuse, pluralism, independence of the media, self-censorship, legal framework, transparency and infrastructure.

The deterioration of freedom of information is a global phenomenon: in fact two-thirds of the 180 countries considered got worse than last year. The reasons are several: the action of radical Islamist groups, wars, violence committed during the events, the economic crisis.

At the bottom of the list (in black in the map of RSF) there are China, Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea. In first place instead, among the countries where press freedom is fuller, there is – for the fifth consecutive year – Finland, followed by Norway and Denmark. In excellent positions, among others, Germany and Canada. There is less freedom of expression (yellow) in the United States, Australia and several European countries (including the United Kingdom, France, Spain) and the situation is even worse in South America and the Balkans (orange color, the same as Italy). Then there are the countries in red: a large part of Asia, Africa and Central America.

EUROPE – The report said that “the interference in the media by governments is a reality in many countries of the European Union”: this is because of the concentration of ownership of the media in the hands of a few people and because of the absence of transparency on editorial properties, besides the fact that “the EU has no rules on the distribution of state aid to the media”. In the continent, the country in the worst position is Bulgaria (106th position).

ITALY – Our country shares its position with Nicaragua. The RSF report mentions remembering that twelve Italian journalists living under guard: this is one of the factors that has decreed downgrading in the international ranking of our country. But “the battle for freedom of information in Italy is also played in the courts”, writes the NGO, remembering the specious complaints – many from politicians – and defamation cases. Then there are the physical assaults and damage to cars and homes.

COMMENTS – Last year Italy had been positioned in 49th place (it was the 57th in 2013). The Editor in Chief of Ossigeno per l’Informazione, Alberto Spampinato, stated that on that occasion, “Reporters Without Borders had been misled. We are pleased that this year the error has been corrected and that the report is based on the data and analysis of Ossigeno per l’Informazione. The fact that our country has been downgraded – he added – we do not like, but it is right: when you measure the fever it is really good to know how hig  it is. Deceiving the thermometer may make  a good impression, but not to cure and heal. The health of our country with regard to freedom of the press is very precarious, and not only because of  the conflict of interest and the  concentration of newspapers and the political control of the public television. We must begin to acknowlege this. The spread of threats, intimidation, the abuse of libel suits to intimidate and assaults are unfortunately frequent. The newspapers do not mention it, the politicians do not care, but the citizens are deprived of much important news and our little observatory reports more than one serious episode per day. As long as you can continue to pretend not to see that, this disease is spreading. When will the other European countries, which today look at Italy as an atypical, execrable case,  begin to do the analysis to which Ossigeno has submitted Italy? Hopefully soon, because infectious diseases cannot be cured in one country only”.

The inability to provide effective responses to critical issues and the exponential increase in complaints and reckless actions for compensation with obvious purpose of intimidation are issues that secretary of the National Federation of the Press, Raffaele Lorusso comments: “The draft law with which you would like to delete the prison for journalists does not face the problem but it risks to aggravate the situation”. Lorusso added: “the RSF report should give pause to the Italian Parliament, prompting him to put aside any desire for revenge against journalists and to work for approval the rules that protect freedom, autonomy and pluralism of the information”.

MF

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