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Berlusconi threat to media and democracy a European concern

October 8, 2009 2:39 PM

Commenting on the situation on press freedom and media monopoly in Italy, the subject of a debate in the European Parliament today, and against a background of attacks by Silvio Berlusoni on judges and the President after the Constitutional Court ruling against his immunity from prosecution, Liberal Democrat European justice spokeswoman and London MEP Sarah Ludford said:

"While east European ex-Communist countries have made much progress towards a free press, the extent of Silvio Berlusconi's control of private and public media would have made Erich Honecker green with envy."

"Did British Conservative MEPs try to block the debate because having won over Rupert Murdoch last week, the Tories are terrified of scaring him off again this week?"

"The issue of Italy's press freedom and the health of its democracy is not just a national issue, it's a European concern. The right to freedom of expression is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, while respect for the rule of law is a key requirement of EU membership."

The Italian prime minister has recently issued writs against newspapers La Reppublica and L'Unita' demanding millions in damages for allegations about his private life and criticism of his grip on the media. The Berlusconi government has also launched an unprecedented assault on the public RAI television network for giving airtime to a woman claiming to have been paid to spend a night with the prime minister. After yesterday's Constitutional Court ruling, Berlusconi attacked both the President and the Country's most senior judges as politically biased.

ENDS

More information about the European Campaign for Media Freedom in Italy can be found at www.freepresseurope.eu .