Italy: Decline in media freedom demands EU action

Italy: Decline in media freedom demands EU action - Civic Space


Media Freedom Rapid Response Partners (MFRR) have written a letter to Roberta Metsola and Ursula von der Leyen expressing serious concerns about the erosion of media freedom in Italy. In the letter, we outline key findings from our recent advocacy mission to Rome and call for the next Commission and the new Parliament to urgently address this issue.


Brussels, 25 June, 2024


Dear President of the European Parliament, Ms Roberta Metsola,

Dear President of the European Commission, Ms Ursula von der Leyen,


We are writing to express our serious concerns about the declining media freedom in Italy and bring to your attention the findings of our recent advocacy mission to Rome in the expectation that you will commit the next Commission and new Parliament to urgently address the issue.

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) is a Europe-wide mechanism that tracks, monitors and reacts to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. This project provides legal support, public advocacy and information to protect journalists and media workers. In May, the MFRR conducted an urgent mission to Italy. Our delegation examined three issues: the unprecedented political interference in the public service media Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI), government members’ legal harassment of dissenting journalists, and the potential acquisition of AGI news agency by MP Antonio Angelucci. Our representatives met with officials of several state bodies, journalists from a diverse array of media outlets, and trade unions, as well as with civil society stakeholders, to address the erosion of media freedom in Italy. Regretfully, the MFRR did not have the opportunity to meet any representatives from the ruling coalition, as all the meeting requests had been either declined or ignored.

The delegation assessed that RAI is currently subjected to a growing and unprecedented level of political interference from the current government, leading to a further loss of independence. Although politicisation of RAI is not new, discussions with journalists from RAI confirmed the recent developments signalled an unprecedented level of pressure, reduction of editorial independence and growing phenomena of self-censorship. Last year’s RAI politically-driven management changes, combined with 2023 summoning by the Parliamentary Committee overseeing RAI broadcasting used as intimidation practice targeting Sigfrido Ranucci, as well as the most recent Italian author Antonio Scurati antifascist monologue’s abrupt cancellation, and the following termination of Serena Bortone’s show, the journalist who was supposed to host Scurati, confirm an unparalleled attempt to censor independent and critical voices. 

Over the past year and a half, Italy has experienced a rise in the number of legal threats formulated by high level public figures, specifically aimed at silencing critics of the government. Most notably, next month, two hearings of vexatious lawsuits initiated by prominent members of the current government are scheduled to take place: the first hearing of the criminal defamation lawsuit initiated by PM Giorgia Meloni against Italian media outlet Domani; and the fourth hearing of the criminal defamation lawsuit initiated by Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Matteo Salvini against Italian writer Roberto Saviano. Within such a context, the bill supported by the ruling coalition and aimed at reforming defamation provisions, known as the Balboni Bill, fails to decriminalise defamation and increases disproportionately the fines against journalists, which goes against international and European freedom of expression standards.

Finally, the delegation fears that the acquisition of one of the country’s leading news agencies, AGI (Agenzia Giornalistica Italiana), by MP Antonio Angelucci – who already controls several major newspapers – will threaten the future of AGI’s editorial independence and reduce media pluralism.

The MFRR intends to  publish its final mission report in mid July. On 17 May, 2024, during our press conference in Rome, we offered recommendations to support much-needed reforms that would align Italian provisions with international and EU standards on pluralism and freedom of expression:  

  • initiate a comprehensive reform of the legislation regulating Italian public broadcasters in line with Article 5 of the European Media Freedom Act;
  • implement a comprehensive reform of defamation provisions, prioritising the decriminalisation of defamation and reforming the civil code. Such reform should bring Italian law in line with the EU anti-SLAPP Directive, the EU anti-SLAPP Recommendation and the Council of Europe anti-SLAPP Recommendation, as well as international freedom of expression standards;
  • in the event of a firm offer to acquire the news agency AGI , regulators AGCOM (Communications Guarantee Authority) and AGCM (Italian Competition Authority) should conduct a thorough and transparent evaluation and consider the impact on media pluralism, editorial independence, and conflict of interest, in accordance with the European Media Freedom Act. 

We urge the European Parliament and the European Commission to take our findings into account and to work together to ensure that the next Parliament and Commission will pay due attention to this critical situation in Italy and prioritise the protection of media freedom across the entire EU.

Dear Madame President Von der Leyen, we suggest your services to integrate these findings in the Rule of Law Report 2024, which should be published on 24 July. Media freedom is one of the four pillars of the rule of law and you both know how much can be at stake when media freedom is not guaranteed. We owe this not only to journalists and media professionals in Italy, who fight for their right and duty to report independently and without fear of undue political interference, but also to the public’s right to know. 

We trust in your commitments to advocate for a free, independent and pluralistic media landscape in Italy and throughout the European Union. The future of Italian democracy depends on such premises. 



The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)


European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

International Press Institute (IPI)


This letter was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.


MFRR boiler plate new