European Federation of Journalists

Italy: European Union confirms RAI’s lack of independence

Credits: RAI.

The European Commission has just confirmed the state of political dependence of Italian public television RAI. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), together with the RAI journalists’ union Usigrai and the Italian Journalists’ Federation (FNSI), is demanding immediate legislative reform to finally guarantee RAI’s independence.

The recent scandals surrounding political appointments to the management of Italian public television and the government censorship that led to the deprogramming of journalist Roberto Saviano‘s anti-Mafia programme highlight the urgent need to amend the law in order to guarantee the total independence of the RAI and its governing bodies.

This time, the European Commission itself is making the point: the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said on Wednesday that “the Commission is aware of the risks of political interference affecting the independence of public service media in Italy”. Mr Breton made this statement in response to a written question co-signed by 15 Socialist and Green MEPs. They were asking about the consequences of the recent wave of political appointments to the management of RAI.

Mr Breton refers to the damning findings of the European report on the rule of law in Italy, but also to the worrying results of the Media Pluralism Monitor studies, which for years have denounced the lack of political and financial independence of the RAI and the inaction of successive governments to put an end to it.

“Italian public television is treated like the worst state television in the most authoritarian regimes, as independent studies commissioned by the European Union have shown for years, without any government having taken the necessary measures to guarantee citizens’ access to free, independent, quality public television,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “Not only is the management of public television under total political influence, but it also lacks the financial resources to fulfil its mission. Political control goes hand in hand with financial insecurity.”

As requested by the latest MPM report on Italy, the EFJ is asking the Italian authorities to reform the governance and the funding system of RAI, in order to guarantee the full independence of the public service media from political interference.

“The managers appointed with the support of the political parties must be removed and replaced by qualified and independent managers appointed on the basis of objective and open competitions,” added EFJ President Maja Sever. “We also reiterate our demand that Roberto Saviano’s television programme be reinstated, since it was only withdrawn on the basis of an act of political censorship unworthy of a democracy. Lastly, we support Usigrai’s call and FNSI’s call for swift legislative reform, in close consultation with the Italian journalists’ oreganisations”.