European Federation of Journalists

Italy: Roberto Saviano suspended from public television RAI


Following statements against the Italian Vice President of the Council of Ministers Matteo Salvini (far right), journalist Roberto Saviano saw the program he was due to present in the autumn on public television abruptly canceled by the directors of Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI), appointed in the spring. Italy’s far-right government has been accused of leaning on the public broadcaster to axe his anti-mafia television programme. In the name of freedom of expression and in defence of the public interest, the European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ-IFJ) call on RAI to reverse its decision.

Four episodes of Saviano’s programme, “Insider, Face to Face With Crime”, had already been recorded and were scheduled for broadcast in November by RAI. However, on 25 July, the broadcaster’s new government-appointed chief executive, Roberto Sergio, announced that the programme had been cancelled, following a complaint to RAI’s oversight board by three parties within the Italian government coalition.

The decision to cut the show came five days after Saviano publicly described Salvini as the “the minister of the underworld”, in a tweet. After those comments, one of the coalition parties, Forza Italia, presented an inquiry to the RAI supervisory commission requesting that Saviano’s programme be cancelled. It was supported by two other political parties: the Brothers of Italy and the Lega.

Sergio denied the move was politically motivated: “The choice to cancel Saviano’s programme is a corporate and not a political choice.” But the journalist, who lives under police escort since 2006, said the move was a sign of the erosion of freedom of speech in Italy: “Freedom of expression is deeply compromised in Italy,” he told the Guardian. “If a person criticises a minister, a TV programme is cancelled, even if it is an anti-mafia TV programme. (…) Europe must fear what is happening in Italy, because what is happening in Italy could soon happen also in the rest of Europe.”

The EFJ and IFJ denounce the totally disproportionate and unjustified nature of the RAI management’s censorship. In the name of the public interest, they call on RAI to reverse its decision. They also ask the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to intervene with its Italian member RAI so that it respects the standards of independence of public broadcasters vis-à-vis the government.

Read the statement of the RAI journalists’ union USIGRai: “Stop a Saviano, AD Rai spieghi perchè puntate già registrate non andranno in onda”.