It all started with an Alan Moore-inspired V-Day in September 2007 (although, in this case ‘V’ did not exactly stand for vendetta, but for the most famous F-word of the Italian language), and it was supposed to end tonight with an “It Will Be Our Pleasure Day” (“Sarà un piacere day”). However, the final electoral rally of the Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S) was not so pleasant for the many Italian journalists who found themselves banned from backstage.
The movement’s founder and charismatic leader, Beppe Grillo, chose Piazza San Giovanni in Rome for the last of a long tour of electoral rallies (dubbed the “Tsunami Tour”). The square is important symbolically, being a traditional location for mass protests held by the left (including the traditional Labour Day concert, organized yearly on May 1 by the three main Italian unions, CGIL, CISL and UIL).
The event began at 6 PM, with a speech by the party’s leader Beppe Grillo scheduled for 9 PM. Tens of thousands of activists awaited their leader as electoral speeches were given by M5S candidates or elected representatives and chants of “Go Home” (“Tutti a casa”), addressed to the current political class, rang out.
In order to go backstage, journalists had to submit a registration form in advance. However, a surprise awaited the Italian journalists. Early in the afternoon of February 22, all Italian journalists found closed doors and were denied access (with the only exception of Sky News 24‘s reporters), while the foreign press was authorized to go backstage. It took three hours of extenuated negotiation and the intervention of police for the M5S to open backstage to the press. The Association of Foreign Press (Associazione Stampa Estera), representing several media present in the country, promptly released a statement condemning the decision.
This decision is in line with the long-term hostility of the movement towards mainstream media, and especially television. Among other things, the M5S Statute forbids candidates to engage in TV interviews of any kind — two elected representatives were actually expelled from the movement for violating this rule, Giovanni Favia (Regional Council in Emilia Romagna, now on the list of the radical leftist slate “Rivoluzione Civile) and Federica Salsi (City Councillor in Bologna). Recently, Grillo cancelled an interview scheduled for February 17 on the Italian private channel SkyNews 24 without giving any reasons.
Ironically, during his final address, Grillo denounced the lack of attention of Italian media (which he suggested ignore his movement) compared with the curiosity and the interest of media worldwide; he even invited a reporter from the Danish television to come forward. Perhaps the Italian journalists who were almost banned by his supporters would express a different opinion.
text [it] La stampa.it
text [it] Agi.it
text [it] Foreign Press Association Condemns the Ban – Agi.it
text [it] Down with the Press – Repubblica.it
text [it] La Repubblica.it
text [it] Grillo Seduces the Foreign Press – Agi.it