During the last general election campaign in Italy, I tried to explain to foreign readers how often the mainstream media in their own Countries—and some “international” blogs, too!—grossly misunderstand even the most basic political issues which we are facing today. One of them is “The Freedom of the Press.”
Well, even though I have never been a supporter of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one thing I strongly disagreed with was, at the time, the conviction that Il Cavaliere represented a threat to press freedom (and to freedom tout court). If this is so, I argued, his opponents are not exactly lighting up the sky with their brilliance as fighters for the cause and guardians of the independence of the Country’s media. In other words, “if Athens cries Sparta does not laugh,” and if you want to tell the truth, you should report the entire truth, namely also the intolerance to criticism and the freedom of press of the Left itself.
Read this to get a better idea of what I’m talking about:
In an interview with Riccardo Barenghi, the left-leaning Italian journalist Michele Santoro, who comperes a controversial programme on a public TV channel, says that he thinks "Prodi and Berlusconi are the same when it comes to the media. The only difference between them is that in his time Berlusconi had my show stopped. ... I am now back on air and this time it is Prodi who cannot tolerate freedom of information. ... He attacked my show, describing it as 'non-professionnal', while admitting that he had not seen it. I think that such an attitude is very serious coming from the prime minister. ... We are up to our necks in what I call the sickness of the democratic system. Politicians on the right and on the left cannot come to terms with the idea of a free media that acts as a counterweight to political power."
[Read the full interview in Italian on La Stampa newspaper]
As for the intolerance to criticism by the Prime Minister and his government, see how Mr Prodi himself and the Minister of Social Solidarity Paolo Ferrero, reacted to the remarks by EU Economic and Monetary Affairs commissioner Joaquin Almunia about the lack of progress by certain euro zone countries, particularly Italy and France, in consolidating their public finances during the current upturn. Mr Prodi, very annoyed, said "They should let us govern," while Mr Ferrero, more prone to anger, argued that Mr Almunia
"talks too much and off the point, and should he stop speaking like a columnist or as if he were concerned in the matter of domestic affairs of other Countries [sic!], he would cause no harm."
Unfortunately for them, today Mario Draghi, governor of the Bank of Italy, addressing parliament's joint budget committee, has added his voice to that of European Union, saying that “progress on reducing net debt in the two year period of 2007 and 2008 seems slow” and that much, much more should be made.