Attacks on the Press
Silvio Berlusconi’s government crumbled in November amid the country’s economic crisis, ending a tenure marked by manipulation and restriction of the press. As prime minister and media owner, Berlusconi owned or controlled all of Italy’s major national television channels, ensuring news coverage favorable to his administration. He worked methodically for three years to enact controversial legislation to prevent print and online media from publishing embarrassing information about alleged corruption in his government and his dalliances with young women. Even in the final days of his tenure, Berlusconi sought to revive a bill that would have limited the use of police wiretaps, penalized journalists for publishing the contents of wiretaps, and forced websites to publish “corrections” to information considered damaging to a person’s image within 48 hours of receiving a complaint. Parliament had already postponed action on the measure, termed Berlusconi’s “gag law,” in 2010. In Perugia, prosecutor Giuliano Mignini used Italy’s harsh defamation laws to intimidate journalists, authors, and media outlets--in Italy and the United States--that reported critically about his performance in two high-profile cases.