In Rome on Tuesday launched a trial on charges of defamation against the journalist and anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano began. The new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, from the right-wing party, Brothers of Italy, started the process almost two years ago with a complaint. The trigger was Saviano’s tirade on the talk show “Piazza Pulita” on the private broadcaster La 7 in December 2020. Saviano Meloni and the former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini from the right-wing national Lega had repeatedly described their position in the migration debate as “bastards”. In November 2021, the responsible investigating judge allowed the main hearing to begin because the term “bastard” was not covered by the right to freedom of expression and political criticism. If found guilty, Saviano faces between six months and three years in prison.
Before the trial began, Saviano complained that he was being “pulled before a court by an authoritarian government for criticizing it.” melon he accused her of going to court “as prime minister against a writer as if she were on an equal footing with him”. The aim of the process is to intimidate him and anyone else who “criticizes the work of this government”.
Media comments and social media have pointed out that at the time Saviano insulted him and filed a complaint against him, Meloni was not in government but was leading an opposition party. The same was true for the former Interior Minister Salvini. In Rome instead governed in December 2020 a left-wing coalition with which Saviano openly sympathized. There can therefore be no question of the government prosecuting an opposition writer; on the contrary, Saviano for his part insulted members of the opposition.
In an open letter published by the newspaper “La Stampa”, Burhan Sönmez, President of the international PEN, called on Prime Minister Meloni to withdraw the complaint against Saviano a few days before the trial began. In the letter, Sönmez laments “a worrying trend in Italy, where journalists and writers are aware that they can be prosecuted and jailed for what they say and write”. Saviano actually followed Sönmez’s appeal to Meloni and his warning by additionally publishing his open letter on his social media channels.