Mafia blamed for Italy’s press freedom decline

Mafia blamed for Italy's press freedom decline
A 2010 press freedom protest in Italy. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Italy tumbled 24 places in the latest press freedom index by Reporters Without Borders, owing to mafia threats and "unjustified" legal action against journalists.

The bel paese was ranked 73rd place out of 180 countries, falling from the 49th spot in 2014, Reporters Without Borders said on Thursday. It is now woefully far from its best ranking in the past decade, achieving 35th place in 2007.

Italy is now one of the worst places in Europe to be a journalist in press freedom terms.

“The situation of journalists worsened dramatically in Italy in 2014, with a big surge in attacks on their property, especially cars,” Reporters Without Borders said in the report.

Seven arson attacks and 43 cases of physical aggression against journalists were recorded in the first ten months of 2014. In December an anti-mafia journalist in Sicily found his car torched and two dogs hanged, while other incidents last year include a reporter being stabbed and others receiving death threats.

In total there were 421 threats against journalists in Italy last year, with violence towards journalists described as “endemic in Italy and increasing steadily” in Reports Without Borders’ December review.

The index released today also highlighted an increasing number of “unjustified” defamation cases.

Italian politicians filed the majority of the 129 defamation suits in the first ten months of last year, described by Reporters Without Borders as “a form of censorship”. The figure shows a dramatic change from 2013, when 84 such lawsuits were filed against journalists.

Italy was given a similar score to a number of eastern European countries, while Greece was put at 91st place. Belarus, often dubbed “Europe’s last dictatorship”, came in 157th, while conflict-racked Ukraine ranked 129th.

The Nordic countries shone out as beacons of media freedom, with Finland topping the index, followed by Norway and Denmark. Sweden came in fifth place behind the Netherlands, cementing northern Europe as the global leader in press liberty.

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