CPJ responds to readers’ comments on Italy letter

In the past week, CPJ has received a number of emails in reaction to our April 19 letter, signed by Executive Director Joel Simon, to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, which details cases of harassment by Perugia authorities against journalists, writers, and bloggers who have critically covered high-profile local murder cases. Some of the emails we have received question the accuracy of our letter as well as our motives for writing it. Most of those stem from this post in reaction to our letter by a blogger, who goes by the penname Kermit.

We acknowledge that with the ongoing appeals trial of two defendants in the 2007 brutal murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher, emotions are running high. A human life was taken in the cruelest manner, and justice must be served.

CPJ takes no position as to the alleged guilt or innocence of either of the defendants in the Kercher case. That is up to the courts to decide. What we are concerned about is that the press–domestic and international–is free to report and comment on the case without fear of reprisal. Alternative views, however unpopular or unpleasant those may be, must never result in harassment, physical attack, incarceration, or threats. Where such incidents occur, authorities must investigate them and punish all perpetrators in accordance with the law. Impunity breeds self-censorship, sensitive issues are left underreported or completely uncovered as a result, and the public ultimately suffers for it, deprived of the full picture of events.

Those in positions of power must understand that scrutiny and criticism, including the harshest of kind, comes with the office.

Our letter was based on firsthand interviews with subjects who were directly affected by Perugia authorities’ actions in retaliation for their reporting or published comments in relation to the Kercher case, as well as in relation to another high-profile murder case, known as the “Monster of Florence” killings. We stand by it.