Interior minister Matteo Salvini isn't the only one back in the spotlight. So what's going on—and is it true that journalists are being intimidated?by Ilaria Grasso Macola / July 11, 2018 / Leave a comment
Italian minister of Interior, Matteo Salvini, is once again under the spotlight—not only for his opinions regarding immigration but now also for his diatribe against Roberto Saviano, author of the best-selling book Gomorrah.
Saviano has been under police protection for more than eleven years after his investigative work on the Neapolitan mafia, the Camorra, triggered death threats.
The ‘police protection’ question became a political matter in August 2017, when Salvini responded to Saviano’s harsh critiques regarding the leader’s anti-immigration rhetoric.
Salvini tweeted that “If we end up governing … we’ll remove his useless police protection.”
The matter resurfaced on June 21, when the now Interior minister was asked if he would go ahead and remove Saviano’s protection.
“The competent institutions will evaluate if he is in any danger,” Salvini replied. “I think he spends a lot of time abroad. It’s fair to evaluate how Italian money is spent.”
In fact, the minister of Interior is not normally involved with giving or revoking police protection.
According to Carmen Leone, associated professor of administrative law at University of Insubria, the task of giving or revoking police protection is carried out by Ucis, a department within Italy’s Department of Public Safety.
On July 3, Mr. Salvini filed an official complaint against Saviano because the writer, in a video posted on Facebook on June 21, called him “ministro della Malavita” (“crime minister”).
This expression—first used in 1910 by politician Gaetano Salvemini to describe Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti, who supposedly facilitated election fraud—refers to episodes allegedly linking the League to the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, and to a €49 million monetary fraud.
The not-so-subtle threat to remove Saviano’s police protection could be seen as part of a wider attempt to silence dissent and voices particularly critical of the minister and his party.
Not long before, on June 13, three journalists were held in a police station and questioned for three hours by the authorities—according to a request of Genoa’s Public Prosecutor office—regarding their investigations on the League’s money flow.
The incident was highly criticised by FNSI, Italian journalists’ trade union as it was considered a “muscular choice” in an attempt to “muzzle freedom of information and bridle freedom of press.”