[Editor’s Note: On May 18, 2020, Italian prosecutors charged Mario De Michele with slander and illegal possession of firearms after a police investigation found that the journalist had organized November 2019 and May 2020 shooting attacks against him, according to according to Ossigeno per l’Informazione, an Italian nongovernmental organization that tracks attacks on journalists, and the trade news site Giornalisti Italia. In an interview with news site Le Iene, De Michele admitted faking the May 2020 attack but claimed that he was a victim of an ambush in November 2019. CPJ is continuing to investigate and is monitoring the judicial process.]
Berlin, November 18, 2019 — Italian authorities must conduct a transparent and thorough investigation into the attempted shooting of journalist Mario De Michele and ensure his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On November 14, unidentified assailants opened fire on De Michele, editor of the news website Campania Notizie, while he was driving near the town of Aversa in southern Italy, according to a report by Campania Notizie. De Michele was not injured in the incident, according to that report.
The assailants fired about 10 shots, six of which hit the car, according to a report by Italian state news agency Ansa. One of the bullets passed “a few centimeters” from the journalist, according to Italian daily La Reppublica.
De Michele has written extensively about organized crime in southern Italy, according to CPJ’s review of his reporting.
“Italian authorities must find the people who carried out the attack on journalist Mario De Michele, as well as any individuals who ordered them to do so, and hold them all to account,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Those who think they can avoid negative coverage by attacking journalists must be met with steep consequences.”
The attack came just two days after two masked assailants riding a motorcycle forced De Michele to stop his car near Sant’Arpino, a town south of Aversa, pulled him from his vehicle, and shouted at him to stop reporting on the affairs of the local council in Orta di Atella, according to La Reppublica. In that incident, one of the assailants slapped De Michele in the face while the other repeatedly hit his car with a club, according to that report.
Police in Aversa have started investigations into both incidents, according to La Reppublica.
On November 15, Deputy Interior Minister Matteo Mauri called the incident “intolerable for a civilized country,” according to a report by the Italian Federation of Journalists.
Following the first incident, De Michele published an editorial in Campania Notizie saying that the attack was a message from the Camorra criminal organization to stop reporting. In an interview with public broadcaster Rai News on November 16, De Michele vowed to continue reporting and said that he had been placed under police protection.
CPJ emailed questions to the national press department of the Italian police, but did not immediately receive a reply.
Italian authorities maintain 24/7 police protection for more than 20 journalists due to credible threats, and provide some form of protection to at least 165 journalists, according to CPJ research.