New York, May 27, 2005—Six police officers searched the headquarters of Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading national daily based in Milan.
The officers spent at least two hours in the newsroom Wednesday evening, looking for documents that the daily had used as part of its earlier report on the use of Italian pistols by Iraq militants in Iraq, Raffaele Fiengo, cultural editor at Corriere della Sera told CPJ in a telephone interview today.
“The officers were polite but firm,” Fiengo said. “We told them that they do not have the right to do this and that this is disrupting to our work, but they said they had an order.”
Prosecutors in the northern region of Brescia had authorized the search as part of their own investigation into the Iraq militants, Fiengo told the CPJ, adding that they wanted to use the daily’s sources. “When we refused, they showed us the search order,” Fiengo said. He also said that the staff gave the police copies of some materials and that the officers left after several hours.
In its Wednesday edition, Corriere della Sera had reported that Brescia authorities were investigating the acquisition of recent model, semiautomatic Beretta pistols by Iraq militants and members of al-Qaeda. The article cited U.S. intelligence sources, saying that 4,000 of the recent Beretta 92 model were found in a Saddam Husein palace, The Associated Press reported.
“Raiding a newspaper office and forcibly searching its premises sends a deeply chilling message to all Italian journalists,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “This is intimidation, pure and simple.”