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Anger as Italy’s interior ministry pulls police escort from mafia journalist

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Anger as Italy’s interior ministry pulls police escort from mafia journalist
Sandro Ruotolo. Screenshot from Fanpage.it
13:00 CET+01:00
Italy’s interior ministry has removed the police escort given to veteran mafia journalist Sandro Ruotolo, it was announced on Saturday, causing an outcry among his supporters and professional peers.

The news spread quickly after it was tweeted out by former justice minister Andrea Orlando of the centre-left Democratic Party, in a message which hinted that the move may be a form of retaliation against Ruotolo for publishing articles critical of the current administration.

Towards the end of last year Ruotolo, who currently works for the news site Fanpage.it, published an investigation into interior minister Matteo Salvini’s social media operations which exposed how the far-right League party’s highly sophisticated data-gathering apparatus, nicknamed ‘The Beast’ by insiders, drums up support for the party using methods that push the bounds of legality.

“[Ruotolo] is also the journalist who has done work on on ‘The Beast’, the Interior Ministry’s propaganda machine. Is there a connection? I’m going to ask in parliament,” Orlando tweeted.

Mafia journalist and best-selling author Roberto Saviano, who has himself lived under police escort since 2006, on Sunday put out a Facebook post in support of Ruotolo which also drew attention to Ruotolo’s investigations into the League's social media operations and encouraged the national news network Rai to air Ruotolo’s film about ‘The Beast’.

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In June of last year the interior ministry said it was reevaluating whether to keep Saviano’s own police escort, sparking an international uproar.

Saviano has been heavily critical of the interior minister since Salvini came to power last spring, nicknaming the politician ‘the Mob Minister’. 

Ruotolo was given a police escort in 2015 after the authorities intercepted prison audio of the Casalesi clan leader Michele Zagaria saying he would like to have the reporter ‘butchered alive’.

Ruotolo had aroused the wrath of the notorious Neapolitan Camorra for his investigations exposing their involvement in an illegal trade in toxic waste in the Campania region.

"Did whoever made this decision take into account the 'long memory' of the Casalesi?" wrote Saviano in another post.

"Do they know that Michele Zagaria, who considers Ruotolo his enemy, does not intend to collaborate with the state and bears grudges?"

The National Federation of the Italian press and the Campania journalists union have written an open letter to prime minister Giuseppe Conte asking him to reconsider the decision.

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