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POLITICS

Italy’s Berlusconi hospitalised ahead of EU elections

Former Italian prime minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, 82, was hospitalised in Milan on Tuesday, reportedly with kidney stone pain.

Italy's Berlusconi hospitalised ahead of EU elections
Milan's San Raffaele hospital, where the politician is being treated. Photo: AFP

Sources within his Forza Italia party told Italian media the three-time prime minister was not suffering from anything more serious than renal colic and was “talking on the phone and coordinating.”

He had been due to attend a Forza Italia meeting Tuesday ahead of next month's European parliamentary elections, in which he is standing, but doctors at Milan's San Raffaele hospital had prevented him and he was expected to spend the night in hospital.

Silvio Berlusconi on the campaign trail. Photo: AFP

A former cruise-ship singer turned property and media magnate, Berlusconi was Italian prime minister for his centre-right Forza Italia party on three occasions between 1994 and 2011.

Despite his regular brushes with the law and health concerns, the man known as “the immortal” for his longevity in politics led the Italian right for more than two decades.

Berlusconi has faced a string of charges over the so-called Rubygate scandal linked to his parties and the underaged prostitute Karima El-Mahroug, also known as “Ruby the heart-stealer”.

The billionaire businessman is currently on trial for paying a witness to give false testimony about his notoriously hedonistic parties.

Berlusconi is also being investigated or prosecuted for witness tampering in Milan, Siena, Rome and Turin, each time for allegedly paying people to keep quiet about his so-called bunga-bunga parties.

READ ALSO: Berlusconi's back: Understanding the enduring popularity of Italy's 'immortal' former PM

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POLITICS

Italian PM Meloni refuses to back down on reporter ‘defamation’ trial

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Tuesday she will not withdraw her defamation suit against anti-mafia reporter Roberto Saviano, despite growing criticism that her position of power might skew the trial in her favour.

Italian PM Meloni refuses to back down on reporter 'defamation' trial

On Tuesday, the hard-right leader told Italian daily Corriere della Sera that she was confident the case would be treated with the necessary “impartiality”.

Meloni sued anti-mafia reporter Saviano for alleged defamation after he called her a “bastard” in a 2020 televised outburst over her attitude towards vulnerable migrants.

Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party was in opposition at the time, but took office last month after an electoral campaign that promised to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.

Press freedom watchdogs and supporters of Saviano have called for the trial, which opened earlier in November, to be scrapped.

READ ALSO: Anti-mafia reporter on trial for ‘defaming’ Italy’s far-right PM

“I don’t understand the request to withdraw the complaint on the pretext that I am now prime minister,” Meloni said.

“I believe that all this will be treated with impartiality, considering the separation of powers.”

She also added: “I am simply asking the court where the line is between the legitimate right to criticise, gratuitous insult and defamation.”

Saviano, best known for his international mafia bestseller “Gomorrah”, faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

The case dates back to December 2020 when Saviano was asked on a political TV chat show for a comment on the death of a six-month-old baby from Guinea in a shipwreck.

On the occasion, he railed at Meloni, who in 2019 had said that charity vessels which rescue migrants “should be sunk”.

Saviano is not the only journalist Meloni is taking to trial. One of the country’s best-known investigative reporters, Emiliano Fittipaldi, said last week the prime minister had sued him for defamation.

READ ALSO: Italian PM Meloni takes another investigative reporter to court

That trial is set to start in 2024.

Watchdogs say such trials are symbolic of a culture in Italy in which public figures intimidate reporters with repeated lawsuits, threatening the erosion of a free press.

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