Tuesday, April 20

Sicilian prosecutors listened to journalists covering refugee crisis | Italy


Sicilian prosecutors investigating maritime rescue NGOs and charities for alleged complicity in human trafficking have heard from several Italian journalists covering the central Mediterranean migration crisis and allegedly exposed their sources.

Prosecutors in Trapani earlier this month accused rescuers from charities such as Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders of collaborating with human traffickers after thousands of people were saved from drowning in the Mediterranean.

The Italian newspaper Domani revealed on Friday that in the course of their investigation, prosecutors secretly recorded dozens of conversations between journalists and rescuers who were unaware that their phones had been tapped.

The newspaper published the content of a file compiled by magistrates that contains the transcripts of dozens of conversations between at least seven reporters and their sources, in apparent violation of their journalistic rights.

Lawyers and watchdog organizations described the move as one of the most serious attacks on the press in Italian history.

The documents show that Sicilian prosecutors secretly recorded conversations between reporters and charity personnel in which they discussed details of the trip and confidential information about the preparation of their articles.

“Among the reporters whose conversations have been recorded, there are journalists who have risked their lives to expose the tragedy in the central Mediterranean, or the torture of migrants,” Domani investigative reporter Andrea Palladino told The Guardian. “This is a measure that seriously jeopardizes freedom of information.”

The most serious case appears to be that of Nancy Porsia, a journalist described by prosecutors as an independent journalist and expert on Libya who had worked for publications such as Repubblica, Sky, Al Jazeera and The Guardian.

Prosecutors allegedly tapped Porsia’s phone for several days, collecting personal data and the names of her sources, Domani reported. The researchers also tracked his movements using the geolocation function of his mobile phone.

In 2019, after she exposed the criminal activities of a human smuggler working for the Libyan coast guard, Porsia and another journalist, Nello Scavo from Avvenire, received police protection.

Prosecutors overheard calls from both journalists, and Scavo’s conversation was recorded while speaking to a source about how to receive a video showing the violence suffered by migrants in Libya. Scavo’s own phone was not tapped.

“At that time, I gave the authorities and the police important information about the traffickers’ network, about their collusion with politics in Libya,” Porsia said. “But it is clear that while I was giving them that information, they were intercepting my calls.”

He added: “The sad thing is that at that moment they knew that my life was in danger due to the threats of the traffickers and, instead of protecting me, they followed my movements.”

Other journalists whose calls were intercepted include investigative journalist Francesca Mannocchi; Sergio Scandura, Radio Radicale correspondent in Sicily; and a reporter for the newspaper El Mundo.

Andrea Di Pietro, a media lawyer and legal advisor to the Italian regulator Ossigeno per L’informazione, told The Guardian that the scandal was “one of the biggest attacks on the press in the history of this country.”

Di Pietro said it was not forbidden to intervene with journalists if they were suspected of having committed crimes, “but in this case it appears that the journalists in question are not being investigated by the prosecution.”

“According to Italian law, wiretapping related to conversations or communications of those people, such as journalists, who benefit from professional secrecy cannot be used.”

Italian prosecutors intercepted a journalist’s conversations in 2017, when prosecutors accused of mistaking a refugee for one of the world’s most notorious human traffickers intercepted The Guardian correspondent Lorenzo Tondo.

At the time, documents filed in court showed that Palermo prosecutors secretly recorded two conversations between Tondo and one of his sources.

In 2019, Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe, an Eritrean refugee who had spent more than three years in prison, was acquitted by a judge of being a human trafficking kingpin, confirming Tondo’s reports that he was the victim of a trafficking error. identity.


www.theguardian.com

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