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ATTACK

Journalist attack places media spotlight on Italian seaside town

The Italian resort town of Ostia has been in the media spotlight since Tuesday, when the brother of a mafia boss violently assaulted a journalist.

Journalist attack places media spotlight on Italian seaside town
A view of Ostia Lido in Ostia on the outskirts of Rome. Photo: AFP

Roberto Spada was filmed headbutting TV reporter Daniele Piervincenzi, before attacking him with a baton.

Piervincenzi had been investigating Spada's alleged links to the far-right CasaPound movement and his nose was fractured in the attack.

In Ostia on Friday dozens of Italian journalists protested in defence of freedom of speech after the attack on their colleague.

The town, which is situated on the outskirts of Rome, has a population of 85,000, many of whom live on impoverished estates.

Piervincenzi was questioning Spada for a report for national broadcaster Rai about municipal elections, two years after the local council was dissolved due to mafia infiltration.

CasaPound, suspected of links to organised crime in the area, won eight percent of the first round votes.

Italian police arrested Spada on Thursday for assault, with prosecutors saying his behaviour was typical of methods used by organised crime groups to control territory.

“If you don't see anything, hear anything or say anything, then you can live to be 100 here,” a sexagenarian resident of Ostia told AFP, declining to give his name.

“But if you want to change things, then you are going to have some major problems ahead,” he added.

“That should have happened a lot earlier. These problems are enrooted and now it's no good lopping off a branch because another will grow and the tree will be just the same.”

The attack on Piervincenzi didn't just upset fellow journalists. Ostia residents also turned out to defend freedom of expression.

“Let's just say that the presence of the press has forced law enforcement to lift the lid on the issue,” Silvia Frau, a resident, told AFP.

“I hope they stay once the media rush is over,” she added.

However, another local passing by said that the reporter “was looking for it and he got it”.

“He should have known when to stop. He was too insistent, he wanted to dig a little too deep”.

Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, of the populist Five Star Movement, was one of the first politicians to react to the attack, calling the violence unacceptable and pledging a crackdown on crime.

“Spada's arrest is proof that there are no lawless areas in Italy,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

CasaPound came fourth in Sunday's first round voting in the municipal elections and is hoping to do better in the second round on November 19th.

It is calling on voters to kick out Raggi who it claims “hasn't even managed to move an abandoned mattress in 18 months”.

The Spada clan is notoriously violent. Seven members of the family were sentenced to a combined 56 years in jail in October, and Roberto's brother Carmine was ordered to serve 10 years last year for extortion and mafia association.

CasaPound insists that is all part of a campaign to discredit the movement.

“What CasaPound has done on the ground is anti-mafia work, anti-organised crime,” the group's vice president Simone Di Stefano said Thursday.

READ ALSO: Mobster arrested after attacking journalist in Italy

RACISM

Boys who shot blanks at Gambian national “did it for a laugh”

Two Italian youths who shot blanks at a Gambian man in Vicofaro in the Tuscan town of Pistoia last week are just 13 years of age, it has emerged.

Boys who shot blanks at Gambian national “did it for a laugh”
Photo: ChiccoDodiFC/Depositphotos

The boys, who cannot be charged with a crime as they are below the age of 14, told police they did it for fun, and that the act of aggression was not racially or political motivated.

But their victim, 24-year-old Buba Seaasay, told La Repubblica that his attackers shouted racial abuse at him, calling him “bastard” and “black”, before shooting the blanks.

Seaasay told reporters he was headed down the street with his back to the boys when he heard the shouts, followed by the sound of two gunshots. He gave chase, but the two managed to escape.

“People always talk rubbish like this, but I never expected they would shoot a gun,” Seaasay said.

“It's too much.”

READ ALSO:

The Gambian national, who is staying in the town as a guest of Vicofaro parish priest Don Massimo Biancalani, showed one of the cartridge casings to the priest, who then accompanied Seaasay to the local police station to file a report.

Police used CCTV footage to identify the minors and received a confession after searching their homes and finding a blank gun and approximately 200 blank cartridges.

 

Racist attacks have been on the rise in Italy in recent months.Two weeks ago 22-year-old discus-thrower Daisy Osakue, who was born in Italy to Nigerian parents and represents Italy in international athletics competitions, was assaulted in a drive-by attack that left her with a black eye.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was criticised for saying the attack on Osakue was not racially motivated.

The opposition to Italy's current populist administration have accused it of stoking hatred and creating a climate of intolerance.

ANALYSIS: As racist attacks increase, is there a 'climate of hatred' in Italy?