Berlin, September 19, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned an Italian prosecutor’s order to search the home of Salvo Palazzolo, a journalist for the daily newspaper La Repubblica, and seize the journalist’s electronic devices. On September 13, Italian police in Palermo, Sicily, seized Palazzolo’s mobile phone, tablet computer, and three hard drives during the search of his home, according to the journalist and a report by TG24 Sky TV.
Palazzolo told CPJ in an email that the search was conducted by order of the prosecutor’s office in Catania, Sicily. According to La Repubblica, the search was carried out as part of an investigation of an alleged leak of confidential information after the journalist published a story in March on the Via D’Amelio bombing, an attack in 1992 by the Sicilian Mafia in Palermo in which anti-mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino and five members of his police escort were killed. The report alleged police misconduct during the police investigation, La Repubblica reported.
“The prosecutor’s order to search Salvo Palazzolo’s home and seize his phone, tablet computer, and hard drives violates the principle of press freedom that the Italian government purports to uphold,” said CPJ European Union Representative Tom Gibson in Brussels. “The protection of sources is fundamental to investigative reporting, and we call on Italian authorities to allow journalists to carry out their work without fear of legal consequences.”
Palazzolo told CPJ in an email that he and his lawyers filed a complaint against the search and are appealing for the return of the seized equipment.
In a statement on September 14, the editorial staff of La Repubblica condemned the search, which would “violate the right to protection of sources and professional secrecy” of journalists.
Italy’s national journalism union, the Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Italiana, called the September 13 raid a violation of a journalist’s confidential sources. “Throughout Italy, there’s a harsh attack on the freedom of information and against free reporters who by doing their work guarantee the right for all citizens to be informed,” the union said in a statement, adding that “this time, it happened to Palazzolo.”
Currently, some journalists are under constant police protection in Italy. According to CPJ’s research, one of them, Roberto Saviano, has reported on the activities of mafia-like criminal groups, including Gomorrah and ‘Ndrangheta. The latter was also a subject of investigative reporting by Jan Kuciak, a Slovak journalist murdered along with his fiancée in Slovakia earlier this year.