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Following mission, IPI launches press freedom report

(IPI/IFEX) - 21 December 2010 - A delegation from the International Press Institute (IPI) traveled to Italy from 8-12 November to meet with key representatives of the Italian media, civil society and state institutions in order to investigate the various manners in which the Italian media system, the laws and practices regulating it and the current political environment affect the media's ability to report on issues of public concern and the people's right to be informed.

The IPI Press Freedom Mission to Italy report, entitled "Press Freedom in Italy: Between Political Influence & Conflicts of Interest" and released today, explains how the conflicts of interest created by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's role as head of state, media magnate and owner of an expansive business empire have further encouraged a habit of political interference in media content.

The IPI report highlights three aspects of the Italian media system which IPI considers problematic:

1) The legal and institutional system that allows for political interference in the content of the public service broadcaster RAI, as well as in the decision-making process about who can practice as a professional journalist, and in issues related to professional ethics.

2) The concentration of media ownership, in particular in the broadcasting sector, in conjunction with the overwhelming importance of television as a source of political information.

3) The economic structure of the newspaper industry which allows business and political interests to influence news reports.

The IPI delegation visited Italy at a time of political crisis, when the hypothesis of a technical government was being advanced by many in the hope that it would address problems which Italian coalition governments have so far failed to resolve. Observers told IPI that a technical government would be best placed to bring about reforms which would reinforce democratic institutions, but are not in the interest of political parties.

With a 14 December vote of confidence, the Italian Parliament confirmed Silvio Berlusconi's position as prime minister, raising concerns about new attempts by the government to pass laws that would limit media's ability to report freely, such as the much discussed Wiretapping Bill, currently on hold.

"As many of the people the IPI delegation met in Italy confirmed, there is press freedom in Italy," said IPI Acting Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. "However, as the IPI report explains, thorough reforms are necessary to strengthen media independence and people's access to information."

Click here to read the report

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