Letters   |   Italy

CPJ condemns attacks on journalists at G-8 conference in Genoa

August 2, 2001

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Prezidensa del Consiglio dei Ministri
Palazzo Chigi
Piazza Colonna, 370
00187 Rome, Italy
Via Facsimile: (06) 6798648

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent organization dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, strongly condemns the brutal attacks by police officers and demonstrators on journalists covering the Group of Eight (G-8) summit of the world's industrialized nations in Genoa from July 20 to July 22.


We are also gravely concerned that official Italian orders compelling media outlets to turn over photographs and audio/video tapes of the violence will further jeopardize the safety of journalists and the integrity of the profession by forcing them to act as police informants.

According to international press reports and CPJ's own research, police officers were responsible for the greatest number of attacks on journalists covering the anti-globalizations protests during the summit. Police officers beat a number of journalists on July 20:

  • Sam Cole, a Rome-based producer for The Associated Press (AP) Television News, was clubbed and suffered a head injury;

  • Timothy Fadek of the GAMMA Press photo agency was flung to the ground and beaten extensively, AP reported;

  • An AP Biscom news agency journalist, whose name has not been disclosed, was beaten even after he showed officers his press credentials and identified himself as a member of the press.
    We continue to investigate a number of reported attacks on Italian journalists that have surfaced in the European press.

    At around midnight on July 21, police raided two buildings occupied by the Genoa Social Forum, an umbrella group of anti-globalization organizations. The Independent Media Center (IMC ­ www.indymedia.org), which helped many independent journalists file stories about the demonstrations, was based in one of the buildings. The police, who were allegedly seeking violent demonstrators, ransacked the IMC and searched the premises for film and photographs, Agence France-Press reported.

    Along with numerous activists, Italian police beat several independent journalists and IMC members who were in the buildings at the time of the raid. Michael Gieser, a Belgian journalist, suffered facial cuts when he was beaten as he lay on the ground, and Philipp Stein, IMC member and journalist from Berlin, was struck when he implored officers to stop the violence, according to Agence France-Presse.

    Violent demonstrators were also responsible for a number of assaults on journalists during the summit, according to international press reports. On July 20, for example, Jérome Delay, a Paris-based photographer for The Associated Press, sustained a fractured rib when a demonstrator struck him with a metal bar. On July 21, a group of militant anarchists attacked journalists and television crews from Germany and Japan, the London-based Independent reported.

    CPJ has also received troubling reports that police officers masqueraded as journalists during the summit, thereby endangering all journalists. We strongly encourage a thorough investigation into these allegations.

    Initially, Your Excellency dismissed domestic and international calls for investigations into the incidents. But on Monday, July 30, the Italian government agreed to open a parliamentary inquiry into allegations of police misconduct. In addition, British foreign secretary Jack Straw has received confirmation "at the highest level" that the Genoa Public Prosecutor will investigate allegations of police brutality, according to the The Times of London.

    The Interior Ministry also opened an internal investigation, consisting of three parts: allegations of police brutality during the protests; the raid on the Genoa Social Forum; and alleged abuses in the detention cells of the Bolzaneto police station.

    CPJ remains very concerned that Italian authorities have not specifically addressed reports of police brutality against journalists.

    Moreover, CPJ is troubled that prosecutors have ordered media outlets to turn over photographs and audio/video tapes of the Genoa street violence. Reuters, The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and Italy's RAI state television network have all received such orders during the last 10 days, Reuters reported.

    Italian law, which allows prosecutors to issue such mandates, does not allow for appeals to the judiciary and imposes stiff penalties on journalists who do not comply. By forcing journalists to act as police informants, the law severely jeopardizes journalists' safety and credibility.

    As a nonpartisan organization of journalists devoted to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ is deeply disturbed at this arbitrary and brutal treatment of journalists covering the Genoa summit. We call on Your Excellency to ensure that any demonstrators and police officers found to have attacked journalists are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    We hope you will keep us informed about the progress of the investigations. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply.

    Sincerely,

    Ann K. Cooper
    Executive Director

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