Because press freedom is generally respected in Italy, CPJ does not routinely monitor conditions in the country. However, CPJ did protest brutal attacks by police officers and demonstrators on journalists during the July 20-22 Group of Eight (G-8) summit of the world’s industrialized nations in Genoa.
International reports and CPJ’s own research concluded that the Italian police were responsible for most of the attacks. Officers beat several journalists during demonstrations on July 20, as well as during the night of July 21-22 when police raided a school that housed the Genoa Social Forum, an umbrella group of some 1,000 anti-globalization groups. The Independent Media Center (IMC), which helped many independent journalists file stories about the demonstrations, was housed in one of the buildings.
According to an Italian government report, some 13 police commanders and 70 police officers participated in the raid, in which about 90 people were arrested, the IMC was ransacked, and several independent journalists were beaten.
An internal government inquiry published on August 1 pointed to “errors and omissions” in the policing of the summit. On August 2, the Interior Ministry announced that three senior police officers responsible for security would be transferred from their posts. The police denied having used excessive force and claimed to have found numerous weapons and other evidence that protestors were planning violent attacks.
Demonstrators were also responsible for a number of assaults on journalists during the summit. On July 21, a group of militant anarchists attacked journalists and television crews from Germany and Japan, according to the London-based Independent.
On August 2, CPJ sent a letter to Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi protesting the attacks and urging an official inquiry. CPJ also expressed concern over reports that some police officers had disguised themselves as journalists in order to infiltrate the demonstrations. The letter noted that this tactic endangers all journalists. CPJ called for a thorough investigation.
CPJ also condemned calls by Italian judicial authorities that media outlets turn over photographs, audiotapes, and videotapes of the Genoa street violence. Reuters, The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and Italy’s RAI state television network all received such orders in the two weeks following the raids, Reuters reported. Under Italian law, stiff penalties can be imposed on journalists or organizations that do not comply with such requests, and there is no possibility of appeal to the judiciary.
The Italian journalists’ association advised its members not to give unpublished material to the authorities, and CPJ found no instances where material that had not already been made public was handed over. In its letter to Berlusconi, CPJ expressed concern that forcing journalists to act as police informants could severely jeopardize their safety and credibility.
On September 14, a parliamentary commission created to investigate allegations of police misconduct released its findings. The report praised the police for keeping order and blamed the violence on the protesters, who were accused of using criminal tactics.
The report stated that the police behavior during the Genoa Social Forum raid was lawful and justified by the officers’ fear that some protestors had weapons. Criticism of the police was mild; tactical errors, such as “shortcomings and confusion” in coordination of police units were cited, as was some evidence that individual police officers used excessive force in carrying out their duties. The findings did not specifically address police brutality against journalists.
Sam Cole, Associated Press Television News
Timothy Fadek, GAMMA
Jerome Delay, The Associated Press
Police assaulted a number of journalists covering the Group of Eight (G-8) summit of the world’s industrialized nations in Genoa from July 20 to July 22.
Cole, a Rome-based producer for Associated Press Television News, was clubbed and suffered a head injury. Fadek, of the GAMMA Press photo agency, was flung to the ground and beaten extensively, according to The Associated Press. An AP Biscom news agency reporter, whose name was not disclosed, was beaten even after he showed officers his press credentials and identified himself as a member of the press.
Violent demonstrators were also responsible for a number of assaults on journalists during the summit, according to international press reports. Delay, a Paris-based photographer for The Associated Press, sustained a fractured rib when a demonstrator struck him with a metal bar. In addition, CPJ received troubling reports that police officers masqueraded as journalists during the summit.
CPJ protested these attacks in an August 2 letter to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The Independent Media Center
Michael Geiser, free-lancer
Philipp Stein, Independent Media Center
Mark Covell, Indymedia
At around midnight, 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 claimed to be seeking violent demonstrators, ransacked the IMC and searched the premises for film and photographs, Agence France-Press reported.
Along with numerous activists, Italian police assaulted several independent journalists and IMC members who were in the building during the raid. Gieser, a Belgian journalist, suffered facial cuts when he was beaten as he lay on the ground. Stein, a German journalist and IMC member, was struck when he implored officers to stop the violence, according to Agence France-Press.
Covell, a British reporter who worked for Indymedia, was seriously injured by the police in the attack, during which he sustained a broken rib, internal bleeding, and an injury to his left arm.
In addition to the police brutality, a group of militant anarchists attacked journalists and television crews from Germany and Japan on July 21, the London-based Independent reported.
CPJ protested the attacks in an August 2 letter to Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The Associated Press
Italian prosecutors ordered media outlets to turn over photographs, audiotapes, and videotapes of the violence that occurred in Genoa during the Group of Eight (G-8) summit of the world’s industrialized nations from July 20 to 22.
Reuters, The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and the Italian state television network RAI all received the orders between July 22 and August 2.
Italian law imposes stiff penalties on journalists who do not comply with such orders. There is no right of appeal.
CPJ protested the orders in an August 22 letter to Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.