Berlin, July 26, 2022 – Italian authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the arson attack on a car used by freelance journalist Francesco Digiorgio, ensure his safety, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
At around 2:30 a.m. on July 18, unidentified individuals set fire to a car registered under the name of Digiorgio’s partner in Altipiani di Arcinazzo, a town 55 miles east of Rome, according to news reports, a report Digiorgio published in the privately owned news website Informare H24, and the journalist, who corresponded with CPJ via email.
Firefighters extinguished the flames and no one was injured, but the car, which Digiorgio said he had used for his reporting, was badly burned, according to those sources. The journalist told CPJ that he reported the attack to the police, who opened a criminal investigation into suspected arson.
He said he believed the attack was retaliation for his reporting, adding that his girlfriend works as a shop assistant and it was not likely that she would have been targeted in such an attack.
“Italian authorities must conduct a thorough investigation into the recent arson attack on a car used by journalist Francesco Digiorgio, identify the perpetrators, and hold them to account,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Such attacks are clearly meant to intimidate reporters into silence; authorities should ensure that journalists can cover sensitive issues without fear.”
Digiorgio contributes news and commentary to Informare H24, covers cultural issues for the magazine Il Prometeo, and runs the Facebook news page Altipiani di Arcinazzo, which has about 14,000 followers, he told CPJ.
Two days before the attack, Digiorgio published a video on the Altipiani di Arcinazzo Facebook page documenting how farmers had abandoned their livestock, leaving a bull walking in the street of the town and endangering local residents.
“I am sure that this video is behind the attack, because I have been dealing with the problem of abandoned livestock on the roads for years and because farmers have often used these methods with other people, sometimes setting fire to the barns of their rivals,” Digiorgio told CPJ. He said he regularly receives insults, offensive comments, and sometimes threats of physical violence on social media related to his work.
He said he requested a police escort for protection after the attack, but had not received a reply. CPJ emailed the police station in Fiuggi, which is in charge of the investigation, for comment, but did not receive any reply.
In an editorial for Informare H24 on July 22, Digiorgio vowed to continue reporting on local issues despite what he described as attempted intimidation.