Anarchists and suspected mafia target Italian media

The last several months in Italy have seen a few disquieting attacks against independent media and an investigative reporter. In one case, the widely distributed independent newspaper La Stampa received an explosive device in the mail.  The Federazione Anarchica Informale/Fronte Rivoluzionario, an anarchist organization, claimed responsibility and ominously noted that La Stampa was just one of many newspapers that could be a target of the group’s war against the state. CPJ research shows that the state of press freedom in Italy is among the most volatile in Western Europe, with violence and legal action sometimes perpetrated by criminal groups or political actors.

A device containing powder and cables was sent to La Stampa‘s offices in Turin, Italy, on April 9, according to La Stampa and Italian news agency ANSA.  Fortunately, the bomb did not detonate.  In an April 12 letter published by Genoan independent newspaper Il Secolo XIX, the anarchist group claimed to have sent the package in retaliation for La Stampa‘s alleged support of a criminal case against several of the anarchist group’s “friends.” The letter was titled “Operation Hunt the Spy” and accused La Stampa of being “on the forefront of corroborating evidence against individuals at war with the state.” It continued, “La Stampa is just one of many newspapers of the regime, and, therefore, any [paper] is a possible target of our war against the state and society that every day supports and legitimizes its existence.”  A La Stampa journalist told CPJ that the newspaper could not be certain about the specific motive behind the attack.

Federazione Anarchica Informale/Fronte Rivoluzionario has claimed responsibility in the past for similar attacks on organizations that it believes support “the power structure,” including parcel bombs that exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome in 2010, wounding the people who opened them. The group also claimed in its letter to Il Secolo XIX that it was responsible for a bomb that arrived at private investigative agency Agenzia Europol Investigazioni in Brescia on April 8.

The Turin police and the state police’s special unit investigating terrorism and organized crime, DIGOS (Divisione Investigazioni Generali e Operazioni Speciali), have launched an investigation into the attacks on La Stampa and Europol Investigazioni, according to La Stampa.

“All threats to media outlets represent direct threats to media freedom. I welcome the immediate launch of an investigation into this matter, as well as the broad show of political and collegial support for the newspaper and the principles of media freedom,” the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, said in an April 10 statement condemning the attack.

Other recent attacks on the press have been targeted at journalists covering organized crime. Last month, the home of independent journalist Alessandro Iacuelli in Avellino, was burglarized, according to local news sites Irpinia Oggi and Internapoli. Iacuelli had been reporting on the mafia’s involvement in illegal waste disposal in southern Italy. On March 14, someone entered Iacuelli’s home through the window and stole the entirety of video footage shot for his reports on the illegal disposal. The thief or thieves carefully selected items: a laptop computer, a hard drive, a number of video cassettes, USB memory sticks, and the memory cards from his camera. Some of the material was unpublished.

Separately, on December 20, 2012, a letter containing a bullet was sent from Milan to the independent weekly newspaper L’Altomilanese in Magenta, Italy. The letter contained a bullet and card with two photos–of the paper’s editor-in-chief, Ersilio Mattioni, and an anti-mafia activist, Giampiero Sebri. L’Altomilanese had been covering stories about mafia criminal activity. Mattioni founded L’Altomilanese in 2011 and publishes weekly features on corruption, waste policy, and mafia infiltration. The photos of him and Sebri were cut from newspapers and coupled with a note in English: “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” The police in Magenta and Milan are investigating, reports the daily Corriere della Sera

Updated: The first three paragraphs of this entry have been modified to correct the name of the group claiming responsibility for the attack against La Stampa and prior attacks on embassies and an investigative firm in Rome. Federazione Anarchica Informale/Fronte Rivoluzionario claimed responsibility, not Federazione Anarchica Italiana.