Italy’s Justice Minister will dispatch inspectors to Sicily following reports that prosecutors tapped into hundreds of telephone conversations involving at least 15 journalists reporting on migration in the central Mediterranean.
Italian newspaper Domani revealed on Friday that magistrates in Trapani who were investigating maritime rescue NGOs and charities for alleged complicity in human trafficking had overheard reporters ‘phone calls with rescuers and allegedly exposed journalists’ sources.
The documents, seen by The Guardian, detail how prosecutors in Sicily secretly recorded conversations between reporters and charity personnel in which they discussed details of the trip and confidential information related to their articles.
Lawyers and watchdog organizations described the move as one of the most serious attacks on the press in Italian history. “This is a clear violation of professional confidentiality. What’s next in this country, mistakes in confessionals? It’s a question of the integrity of democracy, ”Carlo Verna, president of the Italian Order of Journalists, told The Guardian.
As the dispute grew in Italy over the weekend, Justice Minister Marta Cartabia called for scrutiny of the Trapani investigation and, according to sources close to the government, is sending inspectors to Sicily to investigate the alleged violation of the reporters’ rights.
Dozens of MPs have asked the government to intervene in the matter. Primo Di Nicola of the 5 Star Movement, a member of the parliamentary committee that oversees the public broadcaster RAI, told the Associated Press that he had proposed a bill to protect journalists from wiretapping by sources.
Several journalists, whose phone calls were secretly recorded by investigators in 2017, had exposed how Libyan human smugglers had been recruited by the Libyan coast guard, to which Italy had provided four patrol boats following a cooperation agreement signed by the then. Minister of the Interior, Marco Minniti. , former intelligence chief, with UN-recognized Libyan government leader Fayez al-Sarraj. Since the agreement, the Libyan coast guard has routinely intercepted migrant boats at sea and escorted them back to Libya, where aid agencies say the migrants and refugees are being tortured and abused.
Independent journalist and researcher Nancy Porsia was among those whose conversations were allegedly recorded by prosecutors in Trapani during the summer of 2017, collecting personal data and the names of her sources, while investigating human trafficking across the Mediterranean. The researchers also tracked his movements using geolocation data from his mobile phone.
“At that time, I gave the authorities and the police important information about the traffickers’ network, about their collusion with politicians in Libya,” said Porsia. “But it’s clear that while I was giving them that information, they were intercepting my calls.”
With a journalist from the Avvenire newspaper, Nello Scavo, who also had conversations recorded by prosecutors, Porsia in 2019 revealed the presence of the notorious human smuggler and Libyan coast guard commander Abd al-Rahman Milad, also known as Bija, in meetings. in May 2017. with Italian officials in Sicily and Rome. The two received police protection after receiving death threats from the trafficker.
Trapani prosecutors claim that the file containing the journalists’ wiretapping data was handed over to them by the former Trapani chief prosecutor, and that they intend to ask a judge to destroy it.
Court documents seen by The Guardian also show prosecutors in Ragusa investigating the crew of the Mare Jonio, an NGO rescue ship accused of instigating illegal immigration, recorded telephone conversations between Beppe Caccia, the ship’s chief of mission. , and the Italian journalist Vera Mantengoli.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism