A complaint filed by an Italian daily has set off controversy. It said several journalists who worked on migration issues ranging from Libya to NGO activities were illegally wiretapped by the Trapani prosecutor's office starting in 2016. Italian Justice Minister Marta Cartabia has ordered an assessment.
A storm is brewing in Italy over news from press organizations that several journalists who work on migration and search-and-rescue activities by NGOs in the Mediterranean said they were illegally wiretapped by the Trapani prosecutor's office.
Following their complaint, Italian Justice Minister Marta Cartabia on Saturday ordered an assessment of the claims. That procedure could eventually lead to sending out investigators if the claims are found to have merit. This is the first initiative to verify the conduct of a judicial official that Cartabia has taken since she was named.
Various calls for her to intervene had come in recent days, from the Order of Journalists (ODG) and several MPs, including Nicola Fratoianni of the Italian Left and Erasmo Palazzotto of Free and Equal, who announced they were presenting an interrogation on the case.
Investigation by daily Domani
The case came from an investigation by the Italian daily Domani that continues to generate discussion. According to the newspaper, several journalists who were working on issues tied to Libya and NGO activities were wiretapped by the Trapani prosecutor's office starting in 2016.
The wiretaps were part of an investigation into crimes of favouring illegal immigration on the part of NGOs. The journalists' phone conversations are even included among the 30,000 pages of a report just filed by the prosecutor's office at the conclusion of the probe that resulted in the seizure of the German NGO ship Juventa, which is accused of having coordinated rescues with traffickers.
Some of the journalists were allegedly wiretapped for months, such as investigative journalist Nancy Porsia, including while she was speaking with her attorney. None of the allegedly wiretapped journalists were officially under investigation.
Appeal to president Mattarella
"We are facing an affront to professional secrecy," said ODG President Carlo Verna. He announced an appeal to Italian President Sergio Mattarella in his role as "supreme guarantor of the Constitution" and as president of the Supreme Council of Magistrates, given that the "quality of democracy" is at stake.
On Friday, the Italian Press Federation also spoke out, calling on public authorities to provide clarification on the case, and especially on one "disturbing" detail, that of the transcription of excerpts of interviews related to investigations on Giulio Regeni.