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Journalist who revealed abuses against migrants sentenced
01 May 2004
On 5 May 2004, a court in Lodi (Lombardy, in northern Italy) found Corriere della Sera journalist Fabrizio Gatti guilty of "providing a false declaration of identity" to police officers who detained him on 17 January 2000. The judge Andrea Pirola also passed a 20-day suspended jail sentence against him, although the prosecution had requested a 200-Euro fine. Gatti pretended to be an undocumented migrant to investigate the treatment given to undocumented migrants and conditions in the Centro di Permanenza Temporaneo (CPT, temporary detention centre for migrants) in via Corelli, Milan, which was later closed and re-furbished after conditions within it were deemed "inhumane". The article that he wrote following his investigation (see Statewatch bulletin vol 10 no 1) claimed that after he was arrested in Lodi when he was posing as a Romanian beggar, he had his fingerprints taken and was photographed in the police station, where he was also slapped, given an inner-body search, and forced to sign a document in which he gave up his right to legal representation under threat.
He was released after an expulsion order was issued against him, and after failing to leave the country within the statutory 15 days, he was detained and taken to the CPT. After revealing his identity, he described the physical conditions in the CPT, with people staying in small container cabins in a large cage, with an overwhelming smell of urine. Gatti told the judge that he devised this way of entering the CPT because it was:
"impossible to report the life inside the big cage, as the centre for the first aid of foreigners awaiting repatriation was known, without living inside it, to ascertain the degree of veracity about alleged violence, spreading of diseases, and violations of human rights".
After hearing the sentence, the journalist observed that it was bad for "freedom of the press and freedom of information", as well as noting that he was "bitter" about not having ever been asked to testify about the slaps, threats and humiliations that he experienced in his guise of an undocumented migrant four years ago.
1. Deaths and demonstrations spotlight detention centres (Statewatch bulletin vol 10 no 1).
2. "Condannato per aver detto la veritá sul CPT di Via Corelli", Melting Pot, 6.5.2004: www.meltingpot.org/articolo2751.html
3. Gatti's original article, Corriere della Sera, 19.1.2000: www.meltingpot.org/articolo2750.html
4. Corriere della Sera 11.5.2004; vita.it, 29.1.2004.
5. Medici Senza Frontiere (MSF) publishes a damning report on conditions in Italy's detention centres for foreigners: Report
6. MSF report on conditions in Italy's detention centres, January 2004 (pdf): www.msf.it/msfinforma/dossier/missione_italia/CPT_FINALE.pdf
(Note: MSF volunteers were denied authorisation to enter the centre for foreigners in Lampedusa in April, after the report was published. They previously used to help the centre's staff in providing medical assistance to migrants who arrived on the island)
7. Italy: Statewatch bulletin, vol 10 no 1 (January-February 2000) "Deaths and demonstrations spotlight detention centres": Report