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Italian president defends free press after government ministers insult journalists

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Italian president defends free press after government ministers insult journalists
Italian President Sergio Mattarella. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
16:52 CET+01:00
Italian President Sergio Mattarella spoke out after Five Star politicians called journalists 'prostitutes' and 'jackals'.

The president highlighted the importance of listening to “opinions you don't share” when speaking to students today at the Qurinale presidential palace.

"I read the papers in the morning; news and opinions, both those that I agree with and those I do not, and for me perhaps the latter are more important,” he said.

"Because it is important to know the opinion of others, their views. Those I share are interesting, naturally and are close to my heart; but those I don't share are for me an instrument on which to reflect.”

"And for this reason, freedom of the press has a great value because, also reading things that you don't agree with, even if you deem them wrong, it enables and helps you to reflect".

His comments came after Deputy Prime Minister and M5S leader Luigi di Maio and Alessandro Di Battista, a M5S deputy, hurled insults at the Italian press this weekend over coverage of M5S Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi's corruption trial, calling journalists "prostitutes”, “hacks" and "low-down dirty jackals.”

“The real scourge of this country is the overwhelming majority of the media that are intellectually and morally corrupt, the same ones who are making war on the government,” Di Maio wrote on Facebook.

READ ALSO: The impact of 'fake news' on the Italian election

The movement has pledged to cut funding for media as part of the new budget plan, and has also said it would introduce legislation to crack down on so-called 'impure media owners', apparently referring to publishing groups with alleged conflicts of interest.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said today he was "proud to be a journalist” and spoke of “worrying” attacks on freedom of information across Europe.

"Without a free press, democracy does not exist," wrote Tajani on Twitter,  

"The European Parliament rejects all threats to journalists and recalls the sacrifice of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Ján Kuciak,” he said, referring to two murdered journalists.

Italy already has one of the lowest press freedom rankings in Europe, and Reporters Without Borders has warned that violence against journalists in Italy is "alarming and keeps growing". The watchdog points to threats made against reporters by organised crime groups, anarchists and fundamentalists.

The group also reports that Italian media is highly politically influenced, and that in Italy, "journalists increasingly opt to censor themselves because of pressure from politicians."

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