Reporters Without Borders is dismayed by a decision by the board of governors of the state-owned broadcaster RAI to suspend all political discussion programmes on its three TV stations during the one-month run-up to regional elections scheduled for 28 and 29 March. The reason given was the difficulty of ensuring “equality of treatment.”
“This move is doubly intolerable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Firstly, an election campaign is under way and Italy’s citizens have more need than ever for political information, especially programmes about the various contending parties, so that they can cast an informed vote. Secondly it is above all the job of state broadcasters such as RAI to provide this information.”
It is extraordinary that RAI should be backing away from the obligation to provide the detailed political information that viewers appreciate by temporarily suspending its current affairs programmes prior to the elections.
The ability of a country’s public broadcast media to allocate air-time fairly to the various political parties is a key indicator of its democratic credentials. RAI’s inability to do this – acknowledged in the decision taken by the board of governors – is utterly incomprehensible in a democracy such as Italy, which was one of the European Union’s founders.
The decision, taken on 1 March, seems to have been politically influenced, especially as polls show support for Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition falling and various political scandals would normally give rise to closer scrutiny and more detailed reporting during an election campaign.
There is still time for RAI’s governors to reverse this decision and fulfil their obligation to inform the public, as the journalists employed by RAI’s three TV stations are demanding.
More than a thousand people protested against the decision outside RAI’s headquarters in Rome on 2 March in response to a call from the National Union of Italian Journalists (FNSI) and the state TV unions. Reporters Without Borders representatives took part in the demonstration.