Facebook removes video of Italy’s Salvini ringing teenager’s doorbell

Facebook has taken down a video of Italy's anti-immigrant League leader Matteo Salvini buzzing the intercom of a 17-year-old Tunisian-Italian to ask if he was dealing drugs, a lawyer said on Tuesday.

Facebook removes video of Italy's Salvini ringing teenager's doorbell
Matteo Salvini addressing a press conference on Monday following his party's defeat at regional elections in Emilia-Romagna. Photo: AFP

In Bologna last week ahead of regional elections, the far-right opposition leader Salvini – surrounded by cameras – buzzed the intercom of an apartment in a neighbourhood where he said he was told drugs were sold, asking the resident, who was born in Italy and is of Tunisian extraction, if it was true he was a dealer.

The widely circulated videos of Salvini sparked outrage, and Tunisia's ambassador to Italy condemned the politican's media stunt, calling it  a “provocation with no respect for a private residence.”

READ ALSO: More than half of Italians think racist attacks 'can be justified', poll finds

The teenager, named as Yassin, later described being “humiliated” by the event, and said he had sought the assistance of a lawyer.

“Facebook has taken the shameful video down from Matteo Salvini's page,” said the resident's lawyer, Cathy La Torre, on her own Facebook page.

“This live video has wreaked havoc on Yassin's life,” La Torre said.

“Yassin, with no criminal record, a 17-year-old Italian, soccer player, found himself identified throughout Italy as a drug dealer,” she said. 

After the event, Salvini said he did not regret his actions.

Salvini and local election candidate for the right, Lucia Borgonzoni. following election defeat in Emilia Romagna this week. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Salvini is no stranger to provocation and drug dealing is a common refrain in his highly publicised media stunts.

He called the government “drug dealers” when parliament voted to approve the sale of a mild version of cannabis last year (though the bill was thrown out) and often ventures into the main piazzas of Italian cities saying he'll chase away dealers.
Despite the media attention, Salvini's pre-election campaigning failed to bring a League victory in the key region of Emilia Romagna, held historically by the left.

Instead, the vote went in favour of the incumbant candidate of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

For months before Sunday's elections, Salvini had claimed that a victory for right in the region would bring about the collapse of Italy's current coalition government

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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.