Defending journalists against Mafia in Berlin, Madrid and Strasbourg

by Jane Whyatt, based on an article at the website of Ossigeno per l’informazione
ECPMF’s Italian partner “Ossigeno per l’Informazione (O2)” is taking its fight against threats from the Mafia and other intimidations on tour around Europe.

Mafia? Nein, Danke! Mafia? Nein, Danke!

O2 presented its method for monitoring threats and acts of intimidation at workshops in Berlin and Madrid. In Italy it has revealed the names of 2,900 journalists affected by this kind of abuse since the monitoring centre was founded in 2008. It was created by veteran political journalist Alberto Spampinato, after his own brother Giovanni was murdered by the Mafia because of his journalistic investigations.

Presentation to Council of Europe

In this series of meetings, on Thursday, April 21st the Director of Ossigeno will be in Strasbourg at the Palais de l’Europe to present to Council of Europe’s “Media and Information Society” Committee the effective co-operation between “Ossigeno per l’Informazione” and the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission that has produced good results in Italy.

The meetings in Berlin and Madrid were attended by journalists, bloggers, students, communications experts, organisations that defend freedom of the press, trade union representatives and international partners of “Ossigeno per l’Informazione” within the ECPMF.

They presented a number of proposals for the fight against intimidation in other countries as it makes the journalistic profession risky and impedes the right of citizens to be well informed.

The purpose of the meetings was twofold: first, to publicise the organisation’s experience in Italy, which publicly revealed the threats against journalists and brought it to the attention of Parliament; and second, to check whether the non-governmental organisations of countries like Italy might also wish to try monitoring the extent to which their journalists and media workers are menaced.

Mafia? Nein, Danke!

In Berlin, the meeting was organised in collaboration with the association “Mafia? Nein Danke! e. V.”, a charity that works to counter threats from organised crime in Germany to all kinds of businesses and individuals – not only journalists. Mafia? Nein Danke’s patron is the Italian Member of Parliament and Anti-Mafia Commission member, On. Laura Garavini. Journalist Fabio Ghelli of Die Zeit national weekly newspaper also attended.

ECPMF PR Manager Katharina Mikulćak and Ulrike Gruska from Reporter Ohne Grenzen (Reporters Without Borders) shared their experiences of monitoring threats to journalists, for example through ECPMF’s Reporting Point, Women’s Reporting Point and storymap displaying attacks by right-wing and left-wing political activists, and ROG’s participation in the EU-backed Monitoring Media Freedom project. Ulrike Gruska of Reporters Without Borders said it would be necessary to standardise and make more transparent the methods used in each country to assess the degree of press freedom and ensure comparability between datasets on violations collected by various organisations.

German journalists who have had direct experience of threats and abuse also told their stories of intimidating warnings when covering controversial stories and judicial proceedings that should never have even been started.

OSCE Media Freedom Representative

Two meetings were held in Madrid on Thursday, 14 April. At the University Rey Juan Carlos, in the midst of the “Jornada Academica Italian-España”, the Spanish/Italian Academic Day, one workshop addressed “New Challenges in Europe to press freedom”.

It was organised by the University in collaboration with the Spanish section of the Association of European Journalists. Among the speakers: Professor Juan Barata, advisor of the Representative on Freedom of the Media for the OSCE, Professor Mario Vicente de Castro, representatives of Spanish NGOs and the Director of Ossigeno, Alberto Spampinato. The second meeting, with investigative journalists and NGOs, focussed on the practical aspects of monitoring media freedom violations.

See more at Ossigeno.

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