Stefano Origone, a journalist for the Repubblica newspaper, was reportedly hospitalised and left with broken ribs and fingers, head trauma and heavy bruising after being beaten and “kicked like a ball” by riot police while covering a CasaPound demonstration in Genova yesterday.
“The thud of the truncheons still echoes in my head,” Origone wrote in a report filed from hospital. “They unleashed a rage unlike anything I'd seen before on my body, which I tried to protect, curled up in the foetal position.”
Stefano Origone, giornalista. Telefona per raccontare. Con due dita rotte.
Preso a manganellate dalla polizia nonostante le urla: “Sono un giornalista!”.
È stato salvato da un poliziotto. Che sapeva di lui.
Genova, 23 maggio 2019. Al corteo antifascista.
— Niccolò Zancan (@NiccoloZancan) May 23, 2019
He described how he'd been watching clashes between police and protestors – supporters of the far-right CasaPound party – in Genova's Piazza Corvetto, from a “good position wiith an escape route behind me”, when riot police surrounded him.
“I don't know what went off, I don't remember what triggered the madness,” he said, adding that he'd later been told that police had “seen a guy dressed in black” and charged.
“They came at me, there was hardly anyone around me, I was in a secluded spot. I saw them coming, I had my cell phone in my hand because I was taking some pictures,” he said.
“They pushed me to the ground and started to beat me: kicks, batons, blows from all sides,” he said. “I screamed “I'm a journalist, I'm a journalist”, but they didn't stop.”
Origone says he was saved by a police officer who recognised him and “threw his body” over him, shouting at those attacking him to stop.
“And, as if by the flick of a switch, the agents stopped and left. As if their fury had been extinguished,” wrote Orichone.
Video footage shared by Repubblica appears to show Origone being beaten and then dragged away by a police officer, though it's not clear from the video how the scene unfolded.
Riot police began beating demonstrators after CasaPound supporters and opponents clashed near the party's rally, according to local news reports.
“The journalist, Origone, was in the piazza to do his job in a peaceful manner as a reporter. I don't know how he could have been mistaken for a rioter,” said Genoa's chief prosecutor, Francesco Cozzi, according to German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
Italian prosecutors have reportedly opened an investigation into Origone's beating.
In an interview published by La Repubblica, Genova Police Superintendent Vincenzo Ciarambino apologised for the attack on the journalist.
It's sadly not uncommon for journalists in Italy to be attacked while reporting. There have been numerous recent accounts of assaults on journalists by members of far-right groups or mafia clans – and now, it seems, also by police.
In January, two reporters for Italy's L'Espresso magazine were assaulted by far-right extremists from Forza Nuova while reporting on an event in Rome.
Journalists have also previously been attacked by members of the mafia, and some 200 journalists in Italy currently live under some form of police protection.
Press freedom has dramatically worsened in Italy since the current government came to power almost a year ago, with watchdogs blaming Italian ministers for “hostile rhetoric” leading to an “increased threat” and “growing violence” against reporters.
There have been growing protests in Italy over police suppression of dissent and demonstrations.
Police recently clashed with anti-League protestors in Naples last week and have been widely derided for forcibly removing protest banners criticising Italian deputy prime minister and League leader Matteo Salvini.
Riot police clashed with protestors in Naples on May 17. Photo: AFP