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ITALIAN JOURNALISTS UNDER ATTACK BY MAFIA FOR 40 YEARS, SAYS MEDIA WATCHDOG

For more than 40 years, the Mafia has been targeting journalists who try to expose the organisation's criminal activities, says an Italian media watchdog.

In a new report, the Italian-based rights group Information Safety and Freedom (ISF) says that nine journalists have been murdered by the mafia since 1960, from Cosimo Cristina who was killed in Sicily in 1960 to Beppe Alfano in 1993.

Many other journalists have been threatened and attacked, says the report, and lists some of the most recent victims, like Roberto Saviano, the journalist and author of the bestseller "Gomorrah", which has sold 1.2 million copies in Italy and has been translated into several languages. "Gomorrah" denounces the activities of the Mafia organisation Camorra in Naples. Last month, Saviano tried to rent an apartment in Naples but was forced to go elsewhere due to pressure from neighbours who feared Mafia reprisals. Saviano himself has received serious threats from the Casalesi clan. According to ISF, he has been living under police protection since October 2006.

Fellow journalist Lirio Abbate, who has been the target of numerous threats and even an assassination attempt for his book "The Complici" - a look at the collusion between the Mafia and politicians - is always accompanied by two bodyguards. "Of course, the presence of bodyguards complicates my job," he told ISF. "I have to find alternative ways to find information. I can no longer go on the streets as I used to do and meet my sources in peace.

"I do not want to leave Sicily but maybe one day I will be forced to do so," he added.

Abbate says in the past 10 to15 years, the Mafia have become increasingly interested in journalists - partly because Mafia leaders are no longer farmers but doctors, politicians and university graduates. "They know where the information is, and why it's important to try to manipulate it. Violence is only the tip of the iceberg. Journalists may also yield to pressure, be corrupt and bought," he says.

ISF recently launched an appeal in Rome for increased protection of journalists reporting on the Mafia in Italy. Most threats come from the Camorra in Naples, the 'Ndrangheta in Calabria, Cosa Nostra in Sicily and the Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia.

Read "In the Mafia's Viewfinder" here (in Italian only): http://www.isfreedom.org/home1098.htm

Also see "The Revenge of the Mafia" (also in Italian): http://www.isfreedom.org/home1096.htm

And check out ISF: http://www.isfreedom.org/

(17 June 2008)

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