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Italy: Journalist sentenced for smuggling himself into reception centre
01 October 2004
On 22 October 2004, a journalist was handed a 15-day prison sentence (converted into a 570-Euro fine) by a court in Agrigento (Sicily) for having smuggled himself into an immigrant reception centre in Italy, on the island of Lampedusa. On 23 June 2003, Francesco Viviano gave false personal details to the police and pretended to be an Afghan to be able to enter the centre. The Sicilian section of the Unione Nazionale Cronisti Italiani
(UNCI, National Union of Italian Reporters) issued a statement in support of the journalist, which stated that "It is true that our colleague Francesco Viviano entered the establishment by providing false personal details, but he did so to produce a journalistic report concerning the forms and conditions of reception for migrants, under which, once it was published, his real personal details appeared". UNCI expressed its solidarity for the journalist, deeming that "the sentence against Viviano is the result of the bureaucratic application of a norm from the criminal code, and we are sure that Sicilian reporters will continue to seek the truth where it is most hidden [from view], and in the ways that they consider to be most suitable".
Viviano's report was published in the Italian daily La Repubblica
on 24 June 2003, and describes the preliminary procedures adopted at the time of admission into the centre, which included being made to strip naked in front of carabinieri (paramilitary police officers) and being made fun of and insulted by officers assuming that the migrants don't understand what they are saying. He was soon discovered, when the carabinieri found his mobile phone.
This is not the first time that journalists or organisations attempting to produce reports about conditions within reception and detention centres in Italy suffer consequences for doing this. The Corriere della Sera
journalist Fabrizio Gatti was found guilty in May 2004 (see below), for having smuggled himself into the via Corelli detention centre in Milan by giving police false personal details, and the Italian branch of the international humanitarian doctors' organisation Médecins Sans Frontières
(MSF) has been the object of a war of words with the government and a break-down in its cooperation with Italian authorities to provide medical assistance to migrants after it published a damning report about conditions in Italy's detention centres in January 2004 (see below).
Repubblica, 22.10.2004; 24.6.2003
Statewatch news online, June 2004: Italy: Update: MSF accused of 'disloyalty' over CPT report
Statewatch news online, May 2004: Italy: Journalist who revealed abuses against migrants sentenced