The editor of Il Tacco d’Italia, a regional news website that she founded in 2003, Mastrogiovanni specializes in covering the "Sacra Corona Unita", the main mafia-style organized crime network in Puglia. In recent years, she has taken a particular interest in waste management in Puglia, which – thanks to the complicity of certain local government representatives – has become a major source of profits for this mafia group.
Often called Italy’s “fourth mafia” – after Sicily’s Costa Nostra, Calabria’s 'Ndrangheta and the Camorra in Naples – Puglia’s Sacra Corona Unita is just as powerful and dangerous as the other three.
Because of the direct and explicit threats she has received in the past from both the Sacra Corona Unita and local officials in Puglia, Mastrogiovanni is one of the ten Italian journalists currently receiving full-time police protection.
She nonetheless regards this protection as inadequate, given the danger that this organized crime group represents : “I’ve left my home in Casarano in order to protect my husband and my children, because I couldn’t be sufficiently protected from a possible attack,” she told RSF. “There are not enough police officers to combat the mafia and to defend the journalists who cover this subject.”
The threats increased after she recently published an investigative story about organized crime’s suspected infiltration into the tourism sector in southern Puglia’s Salento region, which is famous for its beach resorts and mountain villages. Bags of trash were spilled outside her home as a warning at the end of June. Two week later, on 7 July, she found around 4,000 emails containing death threats in the website mail server’s inbox.
“Despite this surge in threats, Marilú Mastrogiovanni courageously refuses to be silenced and is determined to continue her investigative reporting,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk. “It is vital that the local authorities firmly and publicly condemn these threats and seize this opportunity to demonstrate their support for her in a concrete manner.”
Covering mafia networks or criminal gangs exposes reporters to deadly danger in Italy, which is ranked 46th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index. In addition to the ten Italian journalists currently getting close, round-the-clock police protection, around 200 others received occasional protection in 2017.