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Piazzapulita. The publisher too should respect professional secrecy

A law dictates it although La7 did not observ it by delivering unedited footage and creating an alarming precedent. With what consequences?

The seizure of the original footage of an investigation aired by Piazzapulita, a TV show, and broadcast by the television network La7, can allow prosecutors in Rome, who’ve ordered it, to identify the fiduciary source of the journalist Antonino Monteleone, who produced the article by interviewing a police officer and masking the identity to avoid reprisals against him. This seizure, carried out bypassing the reporter and his editors, raises alarm and concern, both for the fact in itself, and for the manner in which was carried out, and even more for the negative effects that this precedent may have on investigative journalism if the story is not pulled back on the right tracks.

What can be done

The Piazzapulita case proposes, on top of the legal loopholes in our law system, the issue of power relations between journalists and publisher. Thus, let give to each his own: to the magistrates their share of criticism and protests, to the publishers the responsibility to comply with obligations under law and established practice. In this story, the most reprehensible behavior appears to be that of the publisher, which – although Article 2 is clear and decisive about what it is required to do – handed in the footage to the magistrates. Can this be let it go without saying anything? In such a way, the failure of La7, which skid over the rights and prerogatives of the journalists, riskes in turning into a fearsome precedent, which is likely to produce the gradual drying up of sources of news. Who will agree to speak in confidence with a reporter if the publisher can with impunity reveal his identity?

That little or much of investigative journalism, watchdog of power, which unveils the arcana imperii that we have left, risks ending up in the bag of memories of what was and is no more.

The fact of the matter is in the legislation and we must fight for its positive update. But in the short term there is little to hope for that we can get, for political and cultural reasons, as much as because of the souered relations between politics and journalism.

Thus, we must act firmly on the trade union ground and on the rules governing relations between journalists and publishers, the role of the Editorial Committees within news outlets, using the bargaining power of the union and the influence that the Order of Journalists can exercise with the strength that comes from the law. The match is played here. And the renewal of the collective agreement is a first opportunity that presents itself.

It would be important to be able to act with this lever to point out and solve other issues: such as the publisher’s responsibility for the legal protection of journalists (it should always be supplied, even when the news outlet closes and they are naked before the law and creditors) . To let publishers face these problems is, among other things, a way to help them confront reality by seeking real solutions and not short-sighted shortcuts.


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