“The question of the truth and of accountability underpinning this issue, which has been round the world, has also become a question of freedom. The Prime Minister in attacking Repubblica is attacking the whole of the press of the western world,” said Carlo de Benedetti, chairman of Italian publishing group Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso, this week in the below speech, entitled ‘Newspapers and Democracy in the Internet Era. The Italian Case’, to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
De Benedetti was referring to the legal action brought against La Repubblica, which is published by L’Espresso, by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.
“On November 5, after six months of attacks and allegations, the Italian Premier finally had to answer the 10 questions posed by Repubblica. This decision shows that the questions were legitimate, that it was journalistically correct to ask them, reiterate them and demand an answer. The delay with which the answer arrived was definitely politically significant. Equally significant was the method chosen for the answers: rejecting a direct confrontation with Repubblica or a dialogue with public opinion, opting instead for a journalist friend and his book, published by the publishing house owned directly by the head of the government. A controlled and protected political operation,” explained de Benedetti in his speech reproduced below via Scribd, in which he also comments on the role of citizen journalists and online news sites.
“A press freedom protest organised by the National Federation of the Italian Press, in the Italian capital Rome on Saturday, and which according to the organisers drew over 300,000 participants, was on the same day criticised by Italian public broadcaster Rai 1,” reports the International Press Institute.
Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi ‘has stepped over a line by trying to stifle embarrassing but legitimate journalism at both home and abroad,’ the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the regional group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), has said in a statement:
“On 28 August, Mr. Berlusconi sued the daily La Repubblica simply for having publicly asked him ten questions. At the same time, the daily Il Giornale owned by the Berlusconi family is attacking the catholic paper Avvenire. Moreover, Mr. Berlusconi is suing French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, and reports say his lawyers are looking into the possibility to sue British papers – including the ones owned by his former ‘friend’ Rupert Murdoch.”
L’Espresso, the publisher of La Repubblica, Italy’s second largest newspaper, is suing the Italian prime minister and media owner, Silvio Berlusconi, the BBC reports. It said that Berlusconi had not yet responded to allegations.
“Mr Berlusconi described La Repubblica as ‘subversive’, prompting L’Espresso media group to sue for defamation.
“L’Espresso also publishes a magazine of the same name, and both publications have led recent investigations into Mr Berlusconi’s personal life.
“The group also said the PM had discouraged businesses from buying advertising space in its publications.
“According to a complaint lodged with a Milan court, the group’s lawyers have also accused Mr Berlusconi of abuse of office and of flouting market rules.”
‘One of life’s great joys is watching two media barons battle it out using all the weapons at their command,’ comments Philip Stone in a comprehensive piece on FollowtheMedia. While it’s not a new rivalry, Stone says that Berlusconi understands it was a ‘big business mistake to have allowed Murdoch to step on Italian soil,’ with Sky Italia.
“While the international media has been dishing out some really low blows editorially against Berlusconi for the past few days it is Murdoch’s Times of London that called in a professor of classics at Cambridge University to compare the Italian Prime Minister with the Roman Emperor Tiberius – known for his sexual frolics – and then followed that up with a really vicious editorial with verbiage that more properly belongs in his tabloid Sun or News of the World than it does in the august(us) Times of London.”