The European conservatives have failed to cancel a debate organised by the liberals in the European Parliament about freedom of the press in Italy. In the wake of last weekend’s demonstration in Rome, organized by the journalists’ union, a debate will go ahead this Thursday, and a resolution vote later.
Critics of Italy’s prime minister, like Ezio Mauro, Editor-in-chief of newspaper La Repubblica, say he uses libel action to intimidate the media and manipulate coverage: “Berlusconi is the foremost leader in the world who takes you to court for asking him questions, who asks the judges to make them disappear because he doesn’t want to answer them. He did it with the international press, like the Nouvel Observateur in France, then he took La Repubblica to court for picking up the information, since it was possible to erect barriers to prevent the circulation of ideas in Europe, the circulation of journalism.” Opposing the debate, the centre-right group, the biggest in the parliament, is political family to Silvio Berlusconi — but the Socialists & Democrats insist the debate take place. The Greens and liberals are demanding European legislation to preserve media pluralism. The conservative European People’s Party (EPP) group’s President, Joseph Daul, argued the storm should be handled nationally: “There’s a problem with President Berlusconi, whose complaint will go before the courts, but for the moment democracy is not called into question in Italy. It is not our business here, and the EPP refuses to deal with an Italian matter.” Berlusconi owns the country’s largest private broadcaster, has friends who own newspapers and his coalition indirectly controls state-run broadcasting, although he refutes the press accusations. Socialist MEP David-Maria Sassoli said: “In Italy, the case called Silvio Berlusconi concentrates in his hands enormous media power, vast resources… All that must be regulated at the European level.”