Paolo Berizzi, an Italian journalist living under 24-hour police protection

Paolo Berizzi of La Repubblica newspaper has been under round-the-clock police protection for three years after receiving death threats from neo-fascist groups that he reported on. This is the latest episode of our series “Global Voices of Freedom”.

This content was published on June 3, 2022 - 09:00
Michele Novaga, Bruno Kaufmann et Carlo Pisani

When it comes to freedom of the press, Italy is certainly not a front-runner. According to Reporters Without Borders, it ranks 41st in the world. Last year 25 journalists had to be protected by the police 24 hours a day due to credible threats and attacks. New cases of intimidation are reported almost every day, according to the Italian interior ministry.

Berizzi, a journalist from Bergamo in northern Italy, is one of those 25. He specialises in reporting on the activities of neo-fascist groups in Italy, and consequently has been under police protection since 2019. He is a special case because he is the only journalist who requires an escort for political reasons: all the others are threatened by mafia and organised crime groups.

Berizzi has been writing about the return of neo-fascism and neo-Nazis for the past 20 years in investigations, articles and books.

“In Italy there is a problem of fascism, or rather various forms of fascism, because there are different types,” he explains. “In recent years these have emerged because we have underestimated them and made them normal. Thanks to ideal conditions for their return, racist, discriminatory and nostalgic impulses have re-surfaced among elected lawmakers who have sworn an oath to the Italian Constitution, among European parliamentarians and representatives of institutions who want to convince us that fascism is not just negative but also responsible for good things.”

Looking back, Berizzi says he wouldn’t change anything, even if he could. “I would do all the things I did again. For me, journalism is either a civic action or it is not. Either it serves to denounce phenomena that undermine our peaceful coexistence and daily life, or it abdicates its main function.”

He adds: “We are one of the few countries that have so many journalists under police protection, and that’s not normal. On the contrary, it is a sign that journalists struggle to do their jobs. In a free country no journalists should receive police escorts and protection. The fact that there are so many journalists forced to live under armed protection is a sign of defeat for the state, which has to protect those who are threatened.”

Paolo Berizzi is the last of our “Global Voices of Freedom”.

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