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"La Repubblica" reporter's home searched; RSF calls for European-level protection of sources

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has learned with anger that police searched the home of journalist Giuseppe d'Avanzo on 13 December 2007, a day after an article of his in the Rome-based daily "La Repubblica" revealed that former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is being investigated on suspicion of trying to corrupt senators. The Naples prosecutor's office confirmed the report.

The search of D'Avanzo's home comes just a week after French intelligence officials searched the home of Paris-based reporter Guillaume Dasquié in connection with a leak and then held him for two days.
"Throughout Europe we are seeing an increase in cases of journalists being pressured to reveal their sources," Reporters Without Borders said. "This is a dangerous development that deters reporters and threatens investigative journalism, and must therefore be stopped. The confidentiality of journalists' sources must be protected at the European level."

In his article, headlined "Television and the market in senators", D'Avanzo claimed that Berlusconi, who was prime minister from 2001 to 2006, promised centre-left senator Nino Randazzo a position as deputy minister if he helped Berlusconi topple Prime Minister Romano Prodi's government. The article cited transcripts of tapped phone conversations in support of this claim. Senator Randazzo has confirmed the report.

The senate is meanwhile about to consider a bill that could limit the news media's ability to publish transcripts of tapped phone calls. A bill adopted by the lower house on 17 April would restrict the press's ability to publish such transcripts relating to judicial investigations that are still under way.
When well-known figures are involved, entire pages of Italian newspapers are sometimes filled with the transcripts of court-ordered phone taps. A publication ban would represent a serious blow to journalistic autonomy in a democracy such as Italy's.

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