Saviano said he would not allow himself to be “intimidated” by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who threatened last year to lift the police watch for Saviano – one of his most virulent critics.
The anti-mafia writer, from Naples, has lived under armed guard since publishing his international bestseller “Gomorrah” in 2006.
Speaking yesterday at the Berlin film festival where a movie he wrote, “Piranhas”, premiered, Saviano said he would not be cowed by the threats.
“I am staying calm. I continue to do what I do. I will continue to tell what's happening, I will not let myself be intimidated by the threats made systematically by the Italian interior minister,” he told reporters.
“You have to understand what's happening right now in Italy. There are some very serious things happening.”
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Saviano noted that his police protection, while essential, was a serious inconvenience to his life.
“Beyond the question of my personal security, the police escort is not a privilege – it's a nightmare to have to be escorted,” he said.
“There are dozens of journalists under protection in Italy and in Europe. Europe is no longer a safe place for those who tell what is happening.”
Matteo Salvini in Rome. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Throughout Salvini's rise to power, Saviano has proved one of his most persistent critics and, with over a million social media followers as well as frequent media appearances in Italy and abroad, one of the most heard.
The author regularly denounces organized crime, corruption and intolerance in Italy to a vast international audience.
His words followed a report yesterday that found Italy was the most dangerous country for journalists in Europe in 2018 and said press freedom in the country had “clearly deteriorated” under the current government.
The report from the Council of Europe's Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists blamed “hostile rhetoric” from Italian government ministers for the increased threat in the country, which it said now ranks alongside Russia for press freedom.
“Among other things, Salvini has threatened to remove police protection for investigative journalist Roberto Saviano, despite the known threats to his life from criminal organisations,” the report said.
Italy’s interior ministry last week removed police protection from veteran mafia journalist Sandro Rufolo, despite mafia bosses threatening to have the reporter “butchered alive”.