Italy: Release of mafia bosses due to pandemic results in new threats against journalists

An Italian journalist covering organised crime who lives under police protection was targeted by a new attack. An early release of dozens of members of the mafia, aimed at containing the spread of the virus in prisons, undermines the past efforts of the Italian judiciary.

Updated on 4 June 2020:

Mario De Michele has admitted that he had lied to the authorities and the media on the last attack of which he had supposedly been a target on 4 May 2020. On 26 May 2020, he declared on the Italian television programme LE IENE that he had invented the assault against his house. Nevertheless, he maintains that he was a victim of an attack last November. Due to his false statements, he is currently subjected to a police investigation. While waiting for the result of the investigation, RSF apologises to its readers for publishing erroneous information. 

If it goes on, we risk losing local journalists capable of publishing information on the organised crime.” The fear of prosecution will be simply too strong. The warning is given by Mario De Michele, Director of the site which covers news in Campania, a region in south-western Italy. The journalist confessed to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) about his concern that “the efforts deployed by the judiciary and law-enforcement bodies for 20 years are being wasted”.

In the night of 4 May, this expert of organised crime was at home with his family when several gunshots were fired at his house. Nobody was hurt, but the bullets went through the kitchen wall. As a matter of fact, the journalist was under police protection after having miraculously escaped an assassination attempt by a local mafia clan last November.

Three days before the attempt on his life, the journalist had filed a complaint for the first attack: two masked man on a motorcycle had hit his car with a rod, made him come out and had slapped him.

The new attackers exploited the limits of the protection regime for Mario De Michele. Although the journalist does not ask for anything more from the authorities, since their reactions have always been, as he says, “concrete, fast and perfect”, he still warns politicians against the decision to release several dozens of members of mafia organisations in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in prisons. Their early release results in a new threat against Italy’s investigative journalists.

Mafia’s assaults and threats against journalists are very common in Italy. Another recent attack happened in the night of 21 April in Corigliano Rossano, Calabria : the car of Fabio Buonofiglio, Editor-in-Chief of the online news outlet Altre Pagine, reputed for reports on organised crime, was burned down. An investigation has been launched.

Italy is ranked 41st out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index

Publié le 08.05.2020
Mise à jour le 04.06.2020