Fact-finding mission to Italy

The Mafia is a systemic threat to press freedom

Fact-finding mission to Italy

The Mafia is imposing its vow of silence on the news media. This is was the finding behind the 24 interviews conducted by the fact-finding team in December 2018 with mafia experts, prosecutors, politicians and journalists in Rome. “The crime syndicates want to silence [journalists] and therefore they intimidate, attack and kill journalists who attract the attention of the law-enforcement agencies by speaking about them”, says Federeco Cafiero De Raho, an Anti-Mafia public prosecutor with four decades of experience.

The team behind the Fact Finding Mission to Italy included Stephanie Koch from the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), Valentina Vivona from the Osservatorio balcani e caucasi transeuropa (OBCT) and Alberto Spampinato, Giuseppe F. Mennella, Raffaella Della Morte and Ilaria Fevola from Ossigeno per l’informazione (O2).

The interviewees describe in detail how psychological and physical violence and the abuse of defamation laws create an atmosphere of fear, leading to self-censorship among the journalists. The precariousness of their working conditions adds to their vulnerability. Since 1960, the Italian Mafia has killed twenty-eight journalists. At the time of the interviews, more than twenty journalists and TV presenters were living under 24-hour police protection, as the Mafia placed a price on their heads due to their journalistic work.

The authors of the report entitled “So many Mafia, so little news” recommend the creation of specialised public prosecutors for crimes against journalists, to reduce impunity for such crimes. Moreover, the working conditions have to improve. Publicist and journalism lecturer Elisabetta Cosci explains in the report, “[Journalists] must have a contractual framework and have ade­quate remuneration. You cannot pay five Euros an article to a collaborator who covers the Mafia.” The motivation for the Fact-Finding Mission was to better understand the links between criminal organisations and a corrupt political system, a connection that has existed in Italy for decades. Recently, these links has led to the murders of investigative journalist in other European countries such as Daphne Caruana galizia (Malta) and Jan Kuciak (Slovakia).