Italy has problems with media freedoms, so has the Five Star Movement (M5S). The political leader of the party was mentioned by the Council of Europe as one of the main threats for newspapers in the Peninsula. In its report on Freedom of expression in 2018, the international organization with nothing to see with the EU detected democratic deterioration in the Italian tissue. Intimidations and deliberate actions aiming to reduce the critical voices are common practice, in the contemporary Italy.
“Financial pressures, favouritism and other forms of indirect manipulation of the media can be equally insidious muzzles and are increasingly used by politicians of all stripes”, the Council of Europe premised. Then it clarified that it is the case of Italy, too.
“In Italy, deputy prime minister and leader of the Five-Star Movement called on state-owned companies to stop advertising in newspapers, and announced plans for a reduction of indirect public contributions to the media in the 2019 budget. In November 2018, he published a social media post containing insulting language against Italian journalists and calling for new legal restrictions on publishers”.
The international body referred to what Di Maio posted on Facebook at the end of judicial troubles in Rome. The major of the Italian capital-city, Virginia Raggi, a woman from the Movement, was accused to have lied
while serving as civil servant. She was proved to be innocent, and Di Maio attacked journalists and journalism.
What the Council of Europe wrote about the political leader of the Five Stars is not the best business card for a politician, neither is for what it will be the second Italian delegation to Brussels after the European elections. In times of democratic process, i.e. electoral campaign for free and democratic European elections, Di Maio is accused to don’t care about democracy.
“Freedom of expression is an essential precondition for democratic security and seserves the highest attention of member states, today as ever”, the report stressed. “Along with its corollaries of freedom of information and media freedom, the freedom of expression enables citizens to make informed choices, to participate actively in democratic processes”.
Is Di Maio the new Berlusconi?
During the Berlusconi’s era, the prime minister of that time, Berlusconi himself, spent most of the time complaining against the media system in Italy. The owner of three national TV channels, radio station and even a newspaper had and still have a communication empire. This fact alone raised and raises questions on the possibility for certain men to be in politics when in clear conflict of interest. But the main Berlusconi’s problem was to shut the anti-governmental press up.
Just like the Berlusconism, now people in power cannot accept the critical voices of Italy. For Di Maio & Co, in somehow, it is the price to pay for having become the system. The Five Star Movement wanted to fight against the traditional organization of the country. Once elected, they entered into the system, and they are now part of it. Being there also means critics. Welcome to he club.
Think different is a crime
The current government decided to cut public contribution to the media sector. The most affected newspapers are Avvenire and ilManifesto, respectively the voice of the Catholic world and the voice of the far-leftists. But even the smallest news companies, such as the local ones, have been hit by the haircut.
“When you silence the different voices, then you feed a silence very appreciated by malfeasance”, the president of the Italian National Federation of Press, Giuseppe Giulietti, said on the occasion of the International day on media freedom.
So the question of media freedom is real and is on the table. The problem is that in times of social media and people thinking just to the internet, traditional press services are not high on the agenda. If they are.