FNSI and Assostampa Puglia make their contribution to the forum, addressing burning issues
by Francesca Rizzo
Events such as the Forum of Mediterranean Women Journalists are also opportunities to establish a constructive dialogue between the different actors involved in the world of information. From this point of view, the presence among the speakers of three colleagues who have long been committed to the protection of women journalists in Italy meant a lot: Raffaele Lorusso and Beppe Giulietti, national secretary and president of the Italian National Press Federation, respectively, and Bepi Martellotta, president of Assostampa Puglia.
Just in light of their institutional as well as professional experience, they provided a very unedifying picture regarding Italian journalism. “There is an alarming statistic,” Lorusso argues, “that of the number of colleagues who live under escort because they are threatened by crime, and have come into the crosshairs of crime because they have allowed themselves to light up suburbs of the underworld that, in the judgment of those who wallow in that underworld, should have remained in the dark. The attempt to stop the work of these reporters runs on a thin thread, that of legality: in fact, explicit intimidation is accompanied by actions that, although permitted by law, are artfully used to hinder and intimidate those who are the targets.
FNSI will join as a civil party in trials initiated by reckless lawsuits. Need a cohesive front and reform of defamation law
Frequent is the use of reckless lawsuits, “a very Italian phenomenon,” Lorusso says again, quite different from the legitimate use of libel suits: in 2015, as reported by the dossier of Oxygen for Information, 90 percent of the lawsuits against journalists ended in nothing because they were based on hollow accusations designed only to frighten those who were the targets. There have long been calls for an update of the legislation, which would provide harsh measures for those who operate “an assault on Article 21 of the Constitution,” as Beppe Giulietti calls it.
In addition to calling for institutional intervention, however, it is also necessary to urge the mobilization of fellow journalists in forming a media escort to support those who are threatened: in several cases, the lack of solidarity has been felt first and foremost in one’s work environment. “Whenever one is attacked, and a general right is attacked,” Giulietti notes, “even taking pen and paper and saying, ‘Today I am with Marilu, and tomorrow with Luciana,’ is an extraordinary civil testimony.”
Marilù Mastrogiovanni and Luciana Esposito are two of the many female colleagues threatened in their being journalists, but more importantly, women. The reflection of the three also inevitably touched on the issue of gender, an aggravation for those who have chosen such a dangerous profession. Bepi Martellotta believes that it is necessary to reflect on our society’s own cultural approach, an approach that pushes one to consider an expression such as “Boldrini summons the Montecitorio group leaders” as normal and “Renzi summons the ministers” as anomalous. “Something is not working,” Martellotta points out, “and yet every day we come out like this in the newspapers.
To reflect on the language of gender, then, is also to reflect on the violence that is carried out through that very language. “Those who use words by trade, and who must play with words every day, cannot forget that, as St. Paul said, words are stones,” Lorusso notes.
A barrier to stop these stones, in the courts, comes from the decision of the FNSI leadership to join as a civil party in the trials in defense of threatened journalists, to form a cohesive front against those who try to curb freedom of information, also leveraging the alleged vulnerability of female journalists: “As a woman,” Giulietti recalls, with bitter irony, “it is even more serious that you allow yourself to dishonor the honored society, you who should be weak and should be afraid because you have children.