Ph.: John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind” (John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, 1859)

Since 1453 the press seemed to be like a good information opportunity on one side and a great danger on the other for the owners of the information power at that time. It’s not a case, that, during the XVI century, the press divided the world in two: protestant and catholic. And the one who doesn’t think, doesn’t hurt the powerful.

Anyway the concept “press liberty” on different contents and information grew through the years and its first promoters were the liberal free thinkersin XVIII and XIV century, soon after the English Industrial Revolution in 1688 and after the American and French ones at the end of 1700. All these thinkers’ ideas were that every individual expression freedom was part of the “natural law” on humanity: in fact, much freedom of the information was needed in Europe and USA, as soon as the democratic and liberal idea started to grow in the West.

Italy, wellknown as the land of poets, saints and seafarings, hadn’t such a great luck with the third oldest work in the world, i.e the reporter (the first work is better not to mention and the second is the evil-doer). Journalists willing to work in a free way are not lucky at all up to now, too. Very recently everyone can remember the various attacks against information, done by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (please, stop calling him Premier as the word Premier has a different meaning). From the action against L’Unità and La Repubblica, this one for the old and young 10 and 10 questions, to the action against Il Giornale (Berlusconi’s property), against Avvenire, including Dino Boffo’s final resignation from Cei newspaper director. A block in the world of information, that, in his opinion, was a united against him, guilty for a “no information”, in order to damage him. Beyond all these considerations above, that need to be considered from a personal and legitimate point of view, and trying to understand better what’s happening, it’s necessary to go back to the past centuries.

The problem of the freedom of the press in Italy is not born today, even if now it seems to be at the top level (but you can never tell…). First of all, looking at the editorial profile, our country has seldom seen clear publishers and real managers of information. Just an example: if a car producer is at the same time also director of a magazine, he’ll never allow his employed jourmalists to say bad things on his car world. Mutati mutandis, this is the same situation of our Prime Minister, who is also publisher of many magazines in competition with all the ones, which often criticize him by right, as per the 21 art of the Italian Constitution.

Very likely due to this, it’s not possible to speak about censure and its process without considering the auto-censure of a lot of journalists and press. The only one was the director of historical Corriere della Sera, Luigi Albertini, who signed in 1925 the first Antifascist Intellectual Manifesto (written by Benedetto Croce) and then was dismissed by the Prime Minister at the time, the Dux, Benito Mussolini, who was himself an ex journalist and press director.

As we’re discussing about press liberty connected with democracy, I should like to remember that, soon after the Marcia su Roma on October 28th, 1922, immediately confirmed and not stopped at all byKing Vittorio Emanuele III, the fascism regularly won next elections, with excursions on Aventino, blow with a cudgel and castor oil. At the end the same “democratic” song sang 10 years later in Germany with Hitler’s national – socialist party. The results of this are very wellknown worldwide.

Back to information, regarding the purifying censure, the contemporary history shows, at the first place, the most famous Bulgar edict, shouted in 2001 by Berlusconi himself, against very famous victims like Enzo Biagi and Michele Santoro, back on Tv thanks to a work case won against RAI, and again the comic Daniele Luttazzi. But too many other person have been said to get away from information and from the Tv world, as the late lamented Andrea Barbato.

Nothing strange if the previous and actual political power has always conditioned the process of news, turning in its favour.

An example is that on Tv has been never broadcasted the picture of Renato Brunetta minister sleeping during a congress, perhaps during a break time in his crusade against lounges and this is different from what happens in Internet or in some magazines. It’s also even not too strange, that in 2002 the winner of “è Giornalismo” prize was Striscia la notizia, conducted by Greggio – Iacchetti and this prize was created by Indro Montanelli, Giorgio Bocca, Enzo Biagi and the manager Giancarlo Aneri. But the “serious” press, the one who should have done real inquiries, where was it ?

Anyway this Italian vice allowed the actual Prime Minister to sit down at Palazzo Chigi, while he’s quietly the owner of 3 national Tvs, Channel 5, Italia Uno and Rete 4, of a newspaper Il Giornale and of a world of information with publishing house Mondadori, counting very successful magazines, like Sorrisi e Canzoni Tv and of many other things (sorry, but we haven’t enough ,,,,, to list everything).

To all this we have also to add the great political influence done on RAI by the actual tenant at Palazzo Chigi, always Berlusconi since 2008. The used ways are for example the so named “panino” of the Tv news (i.e. government declaration, opposition reply, new reply by the government) with comfortable programmes, from a journalist point of view, like Porta a Porta by Bruno Vespa (see the Italian Contract), Telecamere by Anna La Rosa or different formats with guests but absolutely without debate.

In spite of this in 1994 the Costitutional Court, following a general and legitim antitrust principle, decided that Mediaset would have given away a channel or sent it on satellite (Rete 4 was chosen). As antitrust is something very indigestible for a great part of our political class, a decreewas signed to save Rete 4, a five months delay waiting for a complete reform of the entire system, that would have never arrived. Together with a quite suspected inertia of the Left Center, back to government in 2006, on January 31st 2008, the sentence of the Luxemburg Court, declares “contrary against the community right”, i.e. illegal, the Maccanico law, the decree saving Rete 4, the Gasparri law, but also the new Gentiloni Ddl. At this stage every comment is unnecessary. Beyond this kind of poker, the anomaly is really congenital and primordial: Italy is the only one European nation, owner of 3 state Tvs, all free of charge and other offering broadcasts on satellite. Since the beginning these three channels have been divided among the political ideas, masked not to be understood. In this way, the audience watching Tv, adapts itself. This is the reason why, there is a sort of “Marianne Ocean Deep” between this damaged Tv information, magazines and web: the last one is certainly the most independent one, always inside exact cultural limits.

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As already mentioned, abroad the music is quite different. Just to be clear, the journalism is like a watch dog, not a pet one. To demonstrate this, we can start from 1987 with the political and personal accident occurred to Gary Hart, one of the democratic challenger against Ronald Reagan. He stopped his run owing to his clandestine relationship with the wonderful Donna Rice, at first denied, but then announced by the press. We can go on with the illegal financing of about two milliards liras, that in 1999 got away without compliments Helmut Kohl, one of the actual Europe (in 2001 he closed everything with 300 million liras fee). Another one was Jose Maria Aznar out of election in 2004, guilty to have said that Al Quaeda acts of terrorism was done byETA Basque Separatists. Dismissals also for Hervé Gaymard in 2005: he was economy minister and Chirac pupil and he had got a flat, that was too much big in the center of Paris (the news was published by the satiric Le Canard Enchainé). Another example: Mrs Jaqui Smith, Engligh Minister of Interior, whose husband spent 67 pounds, about 70 euros, for two hot pay per view films, buying them with English money (from Skynews, owned by Rupert Murdoch) and also in this casethe press informed about this.

It’s not strange that recent suggestions to our Prime Minister, done by The Wall Street Journal, the critics by The Times with “Rome is burning” and the considerations of Javier Moreno, El Pais director, comparing him to the Venezual President Ugo Chavez. Also The Economist, one of the most conservatory English journal, never spared him.

What foreign press seems wisely not to understand and that also a lot of Italians rightly refuse to comprehend, is that among all industrialized and democratic countries, we are the only one where politics is not attacked, but it’s the exact contrary.

Even George W. Bush is now considered like one of the less brilliant American presidents: in his second election won, thanks to a great and strong consent, created around ideas, known as a failure, but accepted in a favourable way by the world of information. Moreover if he had not admitted, during his first election, his alcholist and drug-addict past, also the fact he was ex-president’s son, would have not needed to him and he would have never started the run to the White House.

Back to the States, not considering the famous Watergate in 1973, when thanks to the Washington Post, Richard Nixon was forced to dismiss from president position, we cannot forget the Bill Clinton impeachment as he didn’t tell the truth about a sex adventure done with Ms Monica Lewinski ( Americans were too much Puritan to call her with her real name, fellatio?). Also in this case there are a lot of similar things here, considering the event of the escort Patrizia D’Addario, as she says, together with our Prime Minister. In our country it seems that private life of a public person, is allowed only during election campaign.

We could add a lot of things more, but it would be useless. The sense of our speech is that in France, in Spain, in UK, in USA and in many other civil nations, the one who decides to engage in politics has to pass through a lot of pression done by the press, as information has to guarantee the correct democratic exercise, besides talking about facts. Italian politics always shows itself in talk shows without contradictor, with prepared questions, that the interviewer must read.

As information and propaganda are two very different things, it would be like confusing the spirit of “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill with a proclamation by Minculpop.

By Alex Miozzi and Claudio Elli, October 2nd, 2009

Translation by Loredana Grandi

Versione italiana