The Italian coast guard encounters a boat of migrants near the island of Lampedusa as pictured on September 1, 2021. (Reuters/Juan Medina)

Anti-migrant activists assault Italian journalists, prevent live coverage from Lampedusa

On July 4, 2023, several aggressors physically shoved Italian RAI public television reporter Lorenzo Santorelli and his crew on Lampedusa island, preventing their live broadcast on migrant arrivals, according to Santorelli and media reports.

A group of about 10 approached the crew shortly before 8 pm as they were awaiting their on-air segment, accused them of tarnishing the island’s tourism image and threatened them with death. Two or three of the assailants jostled the reporter and two unnamed colleagues aside, these sources said.

Nobody was injured, but the crew’s satellite broadcasting kit was damaged when it fell to the ground, Santorelli told the Committee to Protect Journalists by email.

“If you don’t go away, we will kill you,” Santorelli cited one of the aggressors as saying. The group also warned the journalists not to set foot on the island again.

Santorelli filed a criminal complaint to the police who identified and charged two alleged perpetrators. “Threats and insults unfortunately have happened previously, but we’ve never been prevented from working before”, he told CPJ.

Separately, on the afternoon of July 5, 2023, several individuals kicked in the back an unnamed camera operator working for Mediaset, a private broadcaster, and threw stones at an unnamed reporter who works for Italpress and AGTW, two private news agencies, as they documented migrants’ movements on Lampedusa. Police identified and charged four alleged perpetrators, according to media reports.

The attacks came as Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi and the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson visited Lampedusa to observe how authorities are handling the arrival of large numbers of migrants by sea.

CPJ asked the press department of Italy’s Ministry of Interior – the ministry responsible for the police – what measures it intends to implement to protect journalists working on Lampedusa, but did not receive a reply.