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article imageWiretaps show Italian PM Berlusconi's attempts to gag media

By R. C. Camphausen     Mar 18, 2010 in Politics
Excerpts of wiretaps published in "La Repubblica" reveal a conversation between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and a commissioner of Italy's independent broadcast regulator. They show the PM attempted to suppress critical news about himself.
According to the Gaea Times, the wiretaps even indicate Berlusconi said “be careful on the phone with the president [Corrado Calabro], there are voices that say… his telephone is being recorded.”
The news has spread to the front pages of many newspapers and websites, from The Independent to Sify News.
When Berlusconi warned about phone recordings, he was apparently not aware the very phone call between himself and media watch-dog commissioner Giancarlo Innocenzi was itself being tapped. What the other quotes from the phone conversation make clear is that Berlusconi was, in fact, scolding and verbally bashing the broadcasting official on the other end of the line over what he saw as "hostile programming" that could possibly damage him politically.
For example, Berlusconi did not like that a TV show was broadcast that investigated his suspected links to the so-called mafia, also known as Cosa Nostra. It emerged that Mr Innocenzi, the commissioner for the country's independent broadcast watchdog, phoned RAI director general Mauro Masi, and conveyed Berlusconi's displeasure. Recalling his conversation, he said: "Berlusconi yelled at me, [saying] 'What the f--k are you doing with all this?' Then he gave me an ear-bashing that never ended."
Considering that Agcom, Italy's official communications regulator is supposed to be an independent and autonomous authority, accountable only to parliament, both Berlusconi and the all too subservient and agreeable Mr. Innocenzi are now under investigation for potential abuse of office.
The head of Italy's main opposition party, Pierluigi Bersani, reportedly said, "If he wants to change the TV program, I'd suggest the Prime Minister use the remote control, not the telephone."
More about Tapped phones, Wiretaps, Censorship, Berlusconi, Italy
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