Freedom of the press in Italy

Freedom of the press in Italy

Freedom of the press is a constitutional right in Italy, secured in 1947. After the fall of Benito Mussolini's fascist regime in July 1943, freedom of the press spread slowly from Rome, first to southern Italy and eventually to the north, where it was resisted in northern Italy by the ruling pro-Nazi Italian Social Republic.

After the falling of fascism, a censorial way of thinking, persisted in the mind of Italians, maybe because of the strength of the Catholic Church or because of the innate mentality of the opposing communist party (P.C.I.), with a natural inclination in favor of selective censorship. This situation brought Italians to have two opposite ways of thinking, each granitical, and prone to censor every sort of undesiderable information from Soviet Union and it's alies, from United States and western countries, and particularly any type of message not cleared by the Vatican.

Specially political leaders were santified by their own followers, demonized by the opposition, and every form of privileges, of abuse, or even robbery, if exerted by the loved part, was minimized or even justified. A small exception to this tendency was the film Forza Italia!, banned from cinemas after Brigate Rosse kidnapped Aldo Moro.

There was a great freedom of expression in the newspapers, but this was countered by an autonomous selective censorship exerted by the own directors, of any type of news that were considered a potential damage to the respective cause of capitalism, communism or religion. Indecent content was banished everywhere, because communist shared a severe and restricted point of view along with the catholics. One notable case was the total ban of Bertolucci's film "Last Tango in Paris". Only after political struggle done mainly by Marco Pannella's Partito Radicale (with his famous fastenings to the point of starvation), there was an increased freedom in the publishing of porno matherial and other freedoms.

In this way several degrees of censorship persisted in Italian Democracy until the seventies and eighties. Only after the appearance in the seventies of hundreds of local "TV libere" city broadcasters (mainly transmitting softcore pornographic films), and after the sentence in the Telebiella (a cable-TV in Biella) case, the Italian government was forced to surrender its monopoly on broadcasting, partly helped by the advent of Cable television and later Satellite television.

Since the establishment of the constitution (in 1947) there have been several major events of violence associated with this freedom.


The House of Savoy (1861-1922)

Fascist era (1922-1945)

The resistance and Allied encouragement

Allied troops liberated Rome in 1944. A surge of political activity followed, previously suppressed by fascist censorship. Formerly forbidden dissident ideas began to be printed in small home newspapers, printed using rotary printing presses and openly distributed or passed from hand to hand around cities and the countryside.

The Italian constitution

The end of the twenty-year fascist era meant the end of repression of many types of civil liberty, including freedom of the press. This provided an important background to the "constituente" working on the new constitution. Backed by a strong will from the Italian people, the majority of the "constituente" saw freedom of expression as a cornerstone of the new democratic Italian Republic. There was broad agreement between moderate and progressive forces. Due to the conservative Catholic majority mindset, the constitution restricted freedom of expression for indecent events, publications and public behaviour (such as nudism).

The practical result of this was a limited freedom of press. The right to publish texts, and especially political texts, books and magazines was maintained, but there was strict limitation of the right to publish obscene books, images, radio speeches, films and drama.

The Italian Republic was formed in 1947 and the constitution was approved in the same year. This was a period full of discussion and fighting between the extreme right- and left-wing political parties. The Catholic Church acted as a mediator as well as attempting to defend Christian morality and family values. The Church also tried to ensure equal access to information as well as allowing differing political views. Remnants of the fascist groups resisted these changes.

Article 21 of the Italian Constitution concerns the freedom of all people to voice their opinions openly and legally. It states the circumstances when authorities have the right to censor and how this should be applied.

Quote|All have the right to express freely their own thought by word, in writing and by all other means of communication.

The press cannot be subjected to authorization or censorship.

Seizure is permitted only by a detailed warrant from the judicial authority in the case of offences for which the law governing the press expressly authorizes, or in the case of violation of the provisions prescribed by law for the disclosure of the responsible parties.

In such cases, when there is absolute urgency and when the timely intervention of the judicial authority is not possible, periodical publications may be seized by officers of the criminal police, who must immediately, and never after more than twenty-four hours, report the matter to the judicial authority. If the latter does not ratify the act in the twenty-four hours following, the seizure is understood to be withdrawn and null and void.

The law may establish, by means of general provisions, that the financial sources of the periodical press be disclosed.

Printed publications, shows and other displays contrary to morality are forbidden. The law establishes appropriate means for preventing and suppressing all violations.|The Constitution of the Italian Republic, Title I, Part I, Article 21

Article 21 and broadcasting

There were political forces which wanted to restrict the new freedom of expression. They created a new state-owned monopoly in television broadcasting, and justified it by saying there was a limited number of broadcast frequencies, which made competition impossible. The RAI was the only broadcasting company until the 1980s when Silvio Berlusconi created a second, private company.

The two companies were used by their owners to show their views on the freedom of expression. The two main political parties, the Christian Democrats and the Italian Communist Party, formed a coalition to try to gain a state monopoly on television. The minority Italian Republican Party, which had 5% of the vote, played a key role in stopping this move. It wanted freedom of transmission.

The turning point was the advent of cable television. The state could no longer claim there was restricted airspace. Telebiella's thirty-fifth anniversary was marked by a parliamentary debate. A video recorded message by the minister Paolo Gentiloni was broadcast which said cable television had forced the government to address the issue. The constitutional court noted a large difference between the two groups. They emphasised that the political reasons cited by the Christian Democrats and Italian Communist Party were inconsistent. The government, led by Giulio Andreotti, was forced to change their view due to a lack of support.

Violent limitation of freedom of the press

The Mauro de Mauro case

In 1971, Mauro de Mauro, a journalist from Naples, mysteriously disappeared, after having announced the discovery of facts that could overturn Italian political establishment. There were several rumours that he was investigating a failed Italian coup d'état of the seventies "Golpe Borghese" or many other political mysteries of the years 1940-1971.

The Giovanni Spampinato case

In October 27 1972, the napolitan journalist Giovanni Spampinato (who was only 25 y.o), a correspondant from the L'Ora newspaper in Palermo and of the italian communist newspaper L'Unità, was killed with eight pistol shots. His assassin, Roberto Campria, son of the president of the Ragusan tribunal, immediately went to the police station, where He confessed the crime. But the criminal enquiry, that was carried in a ridiculous way, brought to the "sand burial" of the trial in the judiciary hall. Spampinato was investigating the murder of a rich engineer-businessman, Angelo Tumino, that happened in Ragusa, Sicily, in february 25 of the same year. [ [ Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published an article about Giovanni Spampinato in June 8 of 2001] ]

The Mario Francese case

Mario Francese was an Italian journalist, murdered by Mafia killers in Palermo on January 26, 1979. He investigated the Ciaculli massacre, followed the trial of the Corleonesi Mafia clan in Bari (1969) and the murder of Coronel Giuseppe Russo of the Carabinieri (the Italian gendarmerie).

Francese was the only journalist to interview Antonietta Bagarella, the wife of Mafia boss Totò Riina. In his inquiries he analyzed the Mafia, it's internal wars, the families and chiefs, mainly the Corleonesi linked to Luciano Liggio and Totò Riina. The latter was convicted for ordering Francese's murder, while Leoluca Bagarella and others were sentenced for carrying out the killing.

The Mino Pecorelli case

In 1979 Mino Pecorelli, a political journalist, announced he had several incriminating documents in his possession. Pecorelli was the editor-in-chief of the political gossip and investigation magazine Osservatorio Politico. The documents allegedly contained facts which could end the career of an extremely influential politician with the initials "G.A.". On 20 March 1979 Pecorelli was assassinated. It was speculated that "G.A." referred to the prime minister Giulio Andreotti, one of the heads of the Christian Democrat Party. 12 years later, Andreotti was tried for other charges and was given "absolution due to insufficient evidence" for his suspected links with the Italian Mafia. Currently Giulio Andreotti gave his external support to Romano Prodi government.

The Walter Tobagi case

In 1980, journalist Walter Tobagi, a former writer for the catholic newspaper Avvenire, then promoted to the Corriere della Sera, was killed by Brigate Rosse, a group of terrorists, that inspired themselves to communism.

The Giuseppe Fava case

Giuseppe Fava was an Italian journalist, founder of "I Siciliani" newspaper. Was murdered in January 1984 by killers of Cosa Nostra (the Sicilian Mafia).

The Giancarlo Siani case

Giancarlo Siani was a journalist from Naples, who wrote in the magazine "Osservatorio sulla camorra", and later for "Il Mattino", the principle newspaper of Naples. He was assigned to the local area editor of Castellammare di Stabia. Siani was killed in september 23, 1985 by the Camorra, the local mafia, following an investigation about their leader Valentino Gionta. Gionta controlled all aspects of cigarette smuggling in the southern Italy region of Campania.

The Giuseppe Alfano case

Giuseppe Aldo Felice Alfano, better known as Beppe Alfano (Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, 1945) was an Italian journalist, murdered by killers of sicilian mafia in the night of January 8, 1993 with three bullets (one shot in his mouth) when he was driving his car in Marconi road in Barcellona (Sicily). After his death there was a long trial, still not ended, that brought to a life-imprisoning sentence against a local boss, but according to many the true minds after the homicide are still umpunished.



* "Come ti sei ridotto. Modesta proposta di sopravvivenza al declino della nazione" (1ª ed.), book by Curzio Maltese. Economici Feltrinelli, (2006). ISBN 8807840685
* "Gli insabbiati, storie di giornalisti uccisi dalla mafia e sepolti dall'indifferenza", libro di Luciano Mirone Castelvecchi, (1999). ISBN 8882101169
* "Le mille balle blu". (1ª ed), book by Peter Gomez and Marco Travaglio. BUR Rizzoli, (2006). ISBN 8817009431
* "Scritture civili. Conversazioni sul nostro tempo", book by Massimiliano Melilli. Editore Ombre Corte, 2006. ISBN 8887009880
* "Europa in fondo a destra. Vecchi e nuovi fascismi", book by Massimiliano Melilli. Editore DeriveApprodi, 2003. ISBN 8888738010

Internet, films, TV-programs

Filmography about the freedom of press in Italy

* Rome, Open City, 1944 film, directed by Roberto Rossellini.
* Forza Italia! (film)
* Viva Zapatero!

See also

* Italian newspapers
* Freedom of press
* Mediaset

External links

* [ The Italian Constitution - translated into english]
* [ Freedomhouse site studying the freedom of press around the World (Italy was partly free until 2006)]
* [ come gli stranieri valutano la libertà di stampa in Italia]
* [ OLD: Osservatorio su Legalità e Diritti]
* [ RSF: Libertà di stampa? L'Italia è al 40° posto, dopo Cile e Corea del Sud]
* [ Reporters Sans Frontieres website]
* [ Mediaset TG-COM: l'Italia è al 79° posto come indice di libertà di stampa]
* [ metaportale di informazione indipendente]

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