Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Stai zitto!

We have a grad student in our department who came over from Italy to go to grad school in America, and study China- go figure! Anyway, she recently married another grad student and, the other day, he was telling me about being in Northern Italy for their wedding. He had been a bit apprehensive about coming over from the US, but found that everyone was fine with that, and besides, they were all too busy complaining about Berlusconi to care!

The big problem Italians have with Berlusconi is that he's on a tear against the media, trying to flush out its few remaining liberal critics. He owns three of the seven terrestrial television stations, a leading daily, a weekly news magazine, and the country's largest publishing house; the government, meanwhile, owns three of the other television stations, and the parliament is firmly on his side. Oh, and he's pressing for damages from two other newspapers for printing unflattering and critical articles about him. The result? The Economist: "In Freedom House’s 2009 survey of media independence, Italy was downgraded to “partly free” and placed 73rd in a list of 195 countries (only just above Bulgaria)".

As The Economist also points out, the Italian government hasn't interfered with the press like this since the Mussolini years. So, it's easy to see why he's causing Italians to worry.

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