The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today condemn the summoning of Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI) presenter Sigfrido Ranucci by the Parliamentary Committee for the general direction and supervision of radio and TV broadcasting. We see this summons as another intimidation practice targeting an independent investigative TV programme, whose reporting has been critical of a number of members of the current government.
Our organisations also urge the Italian Parliament to guarantee the independence of the Italian public service broadcaster (RAI) and halt unjustified political interference in its journalistic output.
On 25 October 2023, representatives of the hard-right government coalition voted to summon Ranucci in his capacity as deputy director of RAI In-Depth Broadcast Directorate (Direzione Approfondimento). The Committee is chaired by the opposition party Five Star Movement and consists of a group of 40 senators and deputies, its composition reflecting the parliamentary configuration.
Ranucci appeared before the committee on 7 November alongside Paolo Corsini, who chairs the Directorate. This was the first time that the Parliamentary Committee has singled out the authors of a particular TV show for summons and questioning. On paper, the hearing was called to discuss the general criteria regarding RAI’s investigative broadcasting. However, the parliamentary questioning ended up focusing exclusively on Ranucci’s investigative show, Report, and its finances.
Throughout the past 27 years, Report has investigated numerous important public interest matters ranging from politics to corruption to the environment. The previous month, two investigative episodes broadcasted by Report sparked hostile reactions among members of the ruling coalition. One episode was about the president of the senate Ignazio La Russa and the other on the late president of coalition partner Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi.
During the hearing, Ranucci defended the programme’s independence and presented data on audience shares, providing evidence of Reports’ consistent viewers’ trends and budget allocation. He reminded the Committee how Report’s journalists have been brought to court 178 times and never found guilty.
The tone of the parliamentary interaction and the circumstances in which the hearing was called signal an increasing risk of political interference in independent public service broadcasting and media freedom in Italy.
The MFRR acknowledges that RAI’s independence is under renewed pressure after the announcement of significant budget cuts, and the previous resignation of its CEO and other major politically-influenced internal management changes.
We condemn this summons as an act of unjustified pressure and intimidation against Report’s independent investigative work, and we are alarmed by the threatening signal it sends to the Italian media community. We also express our deep concern for the mocking behaviour shown by some members of the governing coalition during the summons.
Along with Italian civil society and the Italian trade union of journalists Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana (FNSI), we stand strong in support of Ranucci and Report. We renew our call to the Italian Parliament to enact a legislation aimed at safeguarding public service media from unwarranted interference and ensuring its financial support, in line with the European Media Freedom Act’s proposal.
ARTICLE 19 Europe
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Free Press Unlimited
International Press Institute (IPI)
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)