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Never take it for granted

February 25, 2010

On the Conference closing day, a colleague from Spain wondered about the reason why nobody was criticizing his own country on issues such as freedom of expression.
Well, here I am, to spend a few words on what is happening in Italy in terms of fundamental rights to freedom of expression, pluralism and media freedom.

There’s no doubt on the fact that Italy is a Western democratic country. But how would you define a country where the Prime Minister owns most private media and indirectly controls public media?
His political interferences in the editorial policy of RAI, the public service broadcasting, are far from being a newness. The last one dates back to the 10th of February, when the Parliament voted a law banning political debate on public television, in view of the important regional elections at the end of March. This is what the EFJ, the regional group of the International Federation of Journalists, called the latest “nail in the coffin of media freedom”.

By providing access to political contestants to communicate their message, the media plays an essential role as the primary source of information about politics. As the EFJ pointed out, taking politics out of the talk shows will confirm Italy’s position at the bottom of the European league table for pluralism and press freedom.

When compared to other countries, such as the Arab countries, or Iran, or China, of course Italy can be considered as an example of freedom of expression. But that is the same freedom which shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Can we identify democracy with freedom of expression?

If freedom is a prerequisite is  it a guarantee, too?

Although giving an answer is not that easy and we could spend months in discussing on these topics, there’s something I’ve learnt: never take for granted freedom of expression. Especially in Western countries, where it could be deceptive.

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