European Federation of Journalists

Italy: Public service RAI becomes a “megaphone” of the government


Public service broadcaster RAI has decided to grant ministers and undersecretaries unrestricted airtime on its programs when referring to institutional matters. On 11 April, journalists and news hosts on the main channels of RAI read live during prime news editions the Rai Union of Journalists (USIGRai) statement announcing RAI’s decision and condemning it, comparing RAI to the government’s “megaphone”. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) together with their affiliate the Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana (FNSI) condemn this further attempt to politicise public information services for propaganda purposes and demand that RAI respects fundamental journalistic principles.

“The government majority has decided to transform RAI into its own megaphone,” so began the speech of USIGrai journalists in the aftermath of the choices announced by RAI’s Supervisory Commission, which approved a rule allowing government representatives to “speak in talks without time constraints and cross-examination.”

The statement continued: “This is not our idea of a public service where the work of journalists is at the centre, where they ask questions, even uncomfortable ones, verify what has been said, point out inconsistencies. For this reason, dear viewers, we inform you that we are ready to mobilise to guarantee you independent, balanced and plural information.”

Another rule will allow Rai News to broadcast at any time political rallies in full, announced only by a short introduction and without journalistic mediation.

RAI’s decision illustrates once again Italy’s government’s attempts to make use of public service for personal and propagandistic purposes, and in contravention of the main pillars of journalists’ work.

President of FNSI, Vittorio di Trapanisaid: “RAI News risks becoming a deluge of electoral rallies, trampling on the editorial autonomy of its journalists and its editorial team.”

The IFJ/EFJ stated: “We stand in full solidarity with RAI journalists, whose press freedom and ethical principles are being undermined by the Italian government. We remind RAI of its need to respect fundamental journalistic principles as they are stated in the IFJ Global Charter of Ethics for journalists. We ask the Supervisory Commission to review its decision and to allow transparent and pluralistic information in compliance with the principles of cross-examination and the public interest.”