Italian press unions have called for a protest after leaders of the Five Star Movement (M5S) branded journalists “jackals” and “whores”.
The turning point in the conflict occurred as Rome's mayor was acquitted for abuse of power in a much-publicized case on Saturday. The Five Star Movement's leader, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio lambasted journalists who had been reporting on the cronyism allegations centring around Ragii, labelling them “jackals” and accusing them of coming up with “fake news” in order to tarnish the mayor's reputation. One of the party figures, Allesandro Di Battista, went still further, referring to the journalists as “whores”.
The comments were deemed strong-worded insults by several journalists’ unions, namely FNSI and Usigrai, which have been recently drawing public attention to massive flash mobs, due to take place on Tuesday in several major Italian cities, as well as in European capitals like Brussels and London, Italian media reported.
Raffaele Lorusso, the president of FNSI, said the Five Star Movement's remarks were totally one-sided, noting that the very same journalists who covered the Raggi case also reported on legal proceedings against her left-wing Democratic party predecessor Ignazio Marino, who was also finally cleared of accusations in court.
“… previously they [journalists] were fine, but not today?” Lorusso said, continuing that irrespective of the insults or threats, journalists won’t be “prevented from doing their work.”
Vittorio di Trapani, the president of Usigrai referred to the insults as infringement on free speech:
“Freedom of the press is under attack,” he noted, adding it looks like a global “strategy” targeting journalists.
“It is clear that this is not only about isolated cases, but a strategy to hit journalists, the freedom of the press, and therefore the right for citizens to be informed.”
Italy’s foreign press association weighed into the debate, endorsing protests masterminded by their “colleagues, who are increasingly being attacked in Italy and around the world”. They expressed certainty that their work is one of the pillars of democracy and hence needs across-the-board protection, which is something many Twitter users agree with.
What a time to be a journalist. We write “fake news” and are “whores”. Italian journalists respond with fury to M5S's 'whores' insult https://t.co/plTydCI5P6— Rosita Boland (@RositaBoland) 13 ноября 2018 г.
Di Maio did not backtrack even when asked on television if he would reconsider his claims.
“Absolutely not. The game now is to extol the League and depict us like the plague. They’re trying to make the government fall but we’re not taking the bait,” he said.
Earlier this year, Di Maio lashed out at advertising in press, voicing a threat to take down advertising by stat-run companies in newspapers citing their “polluting the political debate every day.” M5S, which is part of the ruling coalition in Italy along with the League, has taken the greatest swipe at La Repubblica for generating what party members call “fake news,” in the footsteps of Donald Trump, who famously uses the expression in connection with liberal mainstream media.