Berlin, June 13, 2022 – Italian authorities should stop harassing journalists and refrain from actions that could endanger the confidentiality of their sources, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On May 24, agents of the Italian Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (Direzione Investigativa Antimafia) raided and searched the newsroom of public broadcaster RAI3’s investigative program “Report,” and the home of its reporter, Paolo Mondani, in Rome, according to a report in daily newspaper La Repubblica and the journalist, who corresponded with CPJ via email.
The public prosecutor’s office in Caltanissetta, a town on the island of Sicily, issued a search warrant on May 20, as part of a leak investigation in relation to a report by Modani, which aired on RAI3 on May 23, about alleged links between organized crime groups and Italy’s far right, according to these sources.
Mondani told CPJ via email that the search warrant authorized agents to confiscate digital and paper documents. At around 7 p.m. on May 24, while the search was underway, the warrant was revoked by the prosecution before the police confiscated any documents from RAI3 or the journalist because authorities had found a confidential document they had been looking for during a separate search of a former policeman’s home.
The police did not obtain access to Mondani’s private devices, he told CPJ.
The search documents and warrant disclosed that the police had tailed Mondani’s news crew and secretly filmed its meeting with a key source, Mondani told CPJ. The police had also intercepted his phone calls, he said.
In addition, about a month before the report aired, Mondani had been summoned by the Caltanissetta prosecutor’s office to find out about interviews he was conducting, according to an interview he did on May 26 with news website BlogSicilia and the journalist.
“Italian authorities should conduct a swift and transparent investigation into the circumstances of the raid and search of the newsroom of RAI3 investigative program ‘Report’ and the surveillance of its news crew, explain their actions, and stop harassing journalists in their leak investigation,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Raiding and searching newsrooms and journalists’ homes and monitoring newsgathering activities has no place in an EU member state. Authorities should refrain from actions that risk endangering the confidentiality of professional sources, which might have a chilling effect on journalists’ work.”
Mondani’s report alleged that a politician from Italy’s neo-fascist right was at the scene during a bomb attack by the Sicilian Mafia on May 23, 1992, in the Sicilian town of Capaci that killed a judge, his wife, and the three members of their police escort, according to a report by news site Euractiv and the journalist.
Salvatore De Luca, public prosecutor of Caltanissetta, told Italian news agency ANSA that the journalist was not under investigation and that the searches were being carried out to verify the authenticity of the sources.
In August 2021, Italian police increased protection of “Report” host and deputy director Sigfrido Ranucci after an assassination plot against him by an organized crime group was revealed, as CPJ reported at the time.
CPJ emailed questions to the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate in Rome and the public prosecutor’s office in Caltanissetta, but did not receive an immediate reply.