Journalists an ‘easy target’ for mafia, says watchdog

Journalists in all countries are increasingly becoming easy targets for organised criminals.

Journalists an ‘easy target’ for mafia, says watchdog
People in Bratislava hold a vigil for murdered Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner Martina Kusnirova. Photo: Vladimir Simicek/AFP

More than 30 journalists have been killed worldwide in the last two years and countless more are at risk, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Italian mafia in particular are believed to target journalists looking into their activity, in Italy and beyond.

Both Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed last year by a car bomb in Malta, and Jan Kuciak, shot with his girlfriend in Slovakia in February, had been investigating the Italian mafia and its links with local politicians.

196 Italian journalists had some kind of police protection in 2017, with a dozen living under permanent police guard, including Roberto Saviano, the author of the bestselling book “Gomorra” about the Naples crime syndicate, the Camorra.

Gomorrah author Roberto Saviano. Photo: Christophe Simon/AFP

“The Mob has spread its tentacles around the globe faster than all the multinationals combined,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a new report on the dangers.

READ ALSO: Slovakia to extradite Italian suspect named by murdered journalist 

“From Beijing to Moscow, from Tijuana to Bogota, from Malta to Slovakia, investigative journalists who shed light on the deals that involve organised crime unleash the wrath of gangsters, whose common feature is an aversion to any publicity unless they control it,” said its author, French investigative journalist Frederic Ploquin. 

He said the only way to counter the threat was for reporters to work together to protect each other.

The biggest danger was in investigating corruption, Ploquin said, now that ruthless crime groups have “established a kind of pact with the state” in many countries, “to the point that you cannot tell where one stops and the other begins.”

READ ALSO: Press freedom in Italy: Key things to know

“How is it possible that Mexico's drug cartels sprout like mushrooms without the support of part of the state's apparatus?” asked RSF,

Nine of the 14 journalists murdered worldwide in 2017 by organised crime groups were killed there.

Eight more journalists have been killed so far in 2018.

Three reporters were also killed this year in Brazil and three more elsewhere in Latin America. And an Indian journalist who was investigating his country's “sand mafia” was run over by a truck.

Earlier this week, Italian mafia experts said that the 'Ndrangheta are now operating “on every continent, and are spreading.”


Gomorrah author Roberto Saviano. Photo: Christophe Simon/AFP


‘Bank robber’ rescued in Rome after tunnel collapses

Four people were arrested in Rome after a suspected would-be bank robber was rescued from a tunnel under a road, police said on Friday.

'Bank robber' rescued in Rome after tunnel collapses

An Italian man had to be rescued after becoming trapped in a collapsed tunnel near the Vatican, suspected of being part of a gang burrowing its way to a nearby bank.

Firefighters spent eight hours digging him out from under a road in the west of Rome, before he was finally freed on Thursday evening and taken to hospital.

“Two people from Naples were arrested for resisting a public official and two, from Rome, for damage” to public property, a police spokesman told AFP.

The rescued man, one of the two Romans, remains in hospital, he said without giving an update on his condition.

“We are still investigating, we do not exclude that they are thieves, it is one of the theories,” he said.

For Italian newspapers, however, the motive was clear, with reports noting the tunnel was found near a bank ahead of the August 15th long weekend, when residents traditionally head out of town and much of Rome is left empty.

“The hole gang,” headlined newspapers Repubblica and Corriere della Sera, while La Stampa said: “They dig a tunnel to rob a bank, and one of them is buried underground.”

Other reports referred to the suspected burglar as l’uomo-talpa, or ‘mole man’.

An AFP reporter at the scene on Thursday saw the man brought out alive on a stretcher, after a day-long operation involving dozens of emergency service workers using mechanical diggers.

The tunnel began underneath an empty shop that had recently been rented.

“We all thought that the people there were renovating the place. So we had no suspicions and we did not hear noises either,” a resident, Michele, who lives in the same building told AFP.