Open letter to Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni

14 November 2022

14 November 2022 - On 15 November, the writer, journalist, and anti-mafia critic Roberto Saviano will stand trial in Rome on charges of defaming Giorgia Meloni, the leader of Brothers of Italy, a party with neo-fascist roots and now Italy’s Prime Minister, two years ago when he criticized her immigration policy and comments about NGO boats attempting to rescue refugees in the central Mediterranean. The charges are brought under Article 595 of the Italian Penal Code, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison.

Dear Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni,

You are wrong to pursue criminal charges against the writer, journalist, and anti-mafia critic Roberto Saviano for remarks he made on television when a six-month-old baby from Guinea drowned in the Mediterranean because a decision was taken not to rescue him. Under Article 595 of the Italian Penal Code, you are seeking to condemn Mr Saviano to up to three years of imprisonment.

The case has grave consequences for Italy’s democracy, not only for Saviano himself. Targeting a writer and journalist for expressing honest opinions has a chilling effect on all writers and journalists, resulting in self-censorship and depriving everyone of their right to know. We know through experience how the legal harassment of a journalist by a head of government and inflammatory rhetoric against marginalized groups can quickly lead to violence.

As the Prime Minister of Italy, you are uniquely positioned to support investigative journalism and independent media. We urge you to commit to and work towards the removal of Italy’s criminal defamation laws and to ending abuse of the law to silence critical voices. This would send a powerful message that your government intends to abide by Italy’s national and international human rights obligations to defend freedom of expression and the universal right to know.

Dropping the criminal case against Roberto Saviano would be a first step in the right direction.

Matthew Caruana Galizia on behalf of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family