Berlusconi against free speech

In Silvio Berlusconi‘s Italy, not just freedom for gay people is threatened.

Also press freedom.

From Italian news agency ANSA:

Berlusconi sues L’Unita

Left-wing newspaper accuses premier of “Fascism”

Rome, September 2 – Premier Silvio Berlusconi is suing Italian newspaper L’Unita‘ for libel.

Berlusconi‘s lawyers sent the left-leaning daily a letter Wednesday asking for two million euros in damages for allegedly vilifying his personal life and performance as premier.

The letter cited articles by four of the paper’s journalists in addition to editor-in-chief Concita De Gregorio.

Berlusconi and Patrizia D'Addario

Offending articles included a piece claiming Berlusconi cancelled important appointments in order to spend time with escort Patrizia D’Addario.

Another suggested that the premier’s staff had appealed to Catholic Church insiders to take a soft stance on the sex scandal which erupted afterwards. Also considered defamatory were articles alleging collusion between public broadcaster Rai and Berlusconi’s own Mediaset network against [Rupert Murdoch’s] satellite TV provider Sky.

Lawyers contested quotes taken from television comic Luciana Littizzetto insinuating that Berlusconi used Viagra.

The letter called the jokes ”personally damaging” on the basis of representing Berlusconi as someone with erectile dysfunction, ”which he is not”.

L’Unita editors responded Wednesday with an appeal for solidarity from its readers saying that the lawsuit smacked of fascism and accusing Berlusconi of wanting to shut the paper down.

A statement rebutting claims of defamation by Berlusconi‘s lawyers noted that charges of lese majeste, or offences to a sovereign’s dignity, weren’t a crime in Italy.

Founded by the father of Italian communism, Antonio Gramsci, L’Unita was long the official newspaper of the Italian Communist Party.

Today, it remains close to the left-wing opposition.

L’Unita is the fourth paper to be sued by Berlusconi for libel after Italian’s second leading daily La Republica, the French Nouvel Observateur and Spanish El Pais.

The lawsuit is the latest in an ongoing feud between the premier and left-leaning media outlets, who he blames for fueling the scandals which dogged him over the summer. In June, the Espresso group which owns La Repubblica filed suit against the premier for telling businesspeople to boycott advertising ”in certain newspapers”.

Tens of thousands of people, including journalists and media rights activists, gathered in a Rome square Saturday to defend press freedom, accusing Premier Silvio Berlusconi of trying to silence critical voices: here.

Venice film festival: here.

5 thoughts on “Berlusconi against free speech

  1. 009-09-30 18:18

    Escort to appear on talk show

    ‘Berlusconi tape’ woman fans TV row

    (ANSA) – Rome, September 30 – The Italian escort who claimed headlines worldwide after taping what she said was a night with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi is to appear for the first time on Italian state TV.

    Patrizia D’Addario, 42, will be the guest Thursday of RAI state broadcaster’s prime-time talk show Annozero, currently at the centre of a row about overstepping its public-service remit.

    Wednesday’s announcement of D’Addario’s presence increased the pressure on Annozero host Michele Santoro, who has been accused of using the show as a platform for an anti-Berlusconi agenda. Deputy Communications Minister Paolo Romani said D’Addario’s appearance would make the government ”even more attentive” about whether ”this type of programme is compatible with RAI’s public-service role”.

    Romani reiterated that the government will quiz RAI chiefs on October 8 about whether the corporation is fulfilling its duties to the license-fee payer.

    But he stressed that ”this is not censorship” and claimed that any assessment of RAI and Annozero’s content was up to the parliamentary watchdog on the broadcaster.

    The head of the watchdog, distinguished former journalist Sergio Zavoli, responded by saying that some talk shows might be seen by some as favouring the opposition but ”every day there are news programmes which are certainly not backing the centre-left agenda, and have a greater penetration because they are repeated several times”.

    However, Romani said RAI’s new contract, which is about to be renewed, would include a clause ruling out ”grandstanding and partisan coverage”.

    Media magnate Berlusconi, who in 2002 slammed Santoro and others for a ”criminal” use of the airwaves, resulting in a five-year absence of the host, said earlier Wednesday he wasn’t afraid of programmes like Annozero which ”only increase my support”.

    But he is suing several Italian and European newspapers over their coverage of the D’Addario case and his estranged wife’s claim that he is unwell and frequents minors like Noemi Letizia, an 18-year-old aspiring actress whose 18th birthday party he attended in May.

    D’Addario, who signed autographs at the recent Venice Film Festival, has been interviewed by French, Swiss and Turkish TV several European newspapers.

    But in Italy she has only appeared on Sky Italia, Rupert Murdoch’s satellite channel.

    Saying he wanted to fill a gap in TV coverage of the escort affair, in which D’Addario said several women were paid to attend the premier’s parties, Santoro devoted his entire season-opening show to the subject last week.

    News of D’Addario’s invitation led Flavia Perini, editor of the rightwing party organ Il Secolo d’Italia, to pull out of the show ”out of respect for politics and women’s dignity”.

    Berlusconi owns Italy’s three biggest commercial TV stations and his brother owns a newspaper which is leading a campaign for Italians not to pay the RAI license fee.

    The premier has also been accused of influencing RAI’s coverage and appointments.

    He denies the charges and also claims to have no say in the line taken by his own group or his brother’s newspaper.

    photo: D’Addario performs at disco in hometown of Bari


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