14 June 2011

Detention centers: Italian journalists write to Maroni

Something is changing. Following the appeal Let us enter in the Cie! promoted by Fortress Europe and taken up by some national newspapers, this time it’s the National Federation of the Italian Press and the Association of Journalists which sent a letter this morning to the Minister of the Interior, Roberto Maroni, asking for an urgent meeting to remove the ban of entry to journalists in to the detention and reception centres. The freedom of press, as it is sanctioned by the article 21 of the Italian Constitution, is at stake. This strong stance on the part of the unions and the Association of Journalists arose the day following the publication in Repubblica of the images documenting the beatings at the detention centre of Palazzo San Gervasio. Hereby follows the complete text of the letter.

To the kind attention of the Minister of the Interior, Roberto Maroni,

With the present letter we wish to request an urgent meeting with You, in order to report certain difficulties that have arisen, to the extent that we have been limited in our duty to inform the citizens, in compliance to the article 21 of the Constitution. More specifically, the problems we intend to report regard the possibility for those operating within the information sector to have access – safeguarding the privacy of all the interested parties – to the places of reception and detention of migrants and refugees, at the present coming mainly from northern Africa.
Such access, following Your circular letter prot. n. 1305 dated 01.04.2011, is nowadays allowed only to some international humanitarian organizations “until further notice”. This means that it is impossible, for those who intend to exercise the right to inform, to verify with their own eyes and by their own means what happens in these places.
With regards to this, some journalists have recently launched an appeal – that the Association and Union of journalists decided to support – which specifically requests to consider such ministerial circular letter as no longer applicable.
Even taking into consideration the difficulties deriving at times from the daily and actual management of the reception, we believe this doesn’t give the right to consider information as an obstacle to the functioning of such structures; on the contrary, we are convinced that the credibility and the transparency of these structures are to be considered fundamental in order to reinforce the trust towards the institutions.
Unfortunately, especially with regard to the CIE (in the past CPT), such limitations were not a product of this specific circular letter, but are intrinsic to the structures’ existence itself.
All the directives regarding those representatives who are allowed access do not mention those operating within the news sector. This happens even if these are not juridically defined as places of detention, and therefore subject to the well known limitations which require requests in advance for access permits.

We are convinced that a discussion on this subject is extremely important, now more than ever, since it is our opinion that the existence of places of non-voluntary concentration of people which are not accessible to the free press is inadmissible. It is tantamount to a real democratic anomaly, which cannot be left – as has been the case so far – to the discretion of the local prefecture, let alone to the good will of those members of parliament who act as guarantors for the journalists.

We are confident that it is possible to reach an understanding whereby the duty to inform can be regulated even in these places: in such a manner that there be no disruption to the everyday procedures which take place there and that, as previously stated, the rights to the privacy for the “guests”, for the operators of the management organizations, for the police officers, be fully guaranteed.

Franco Siddi, President of the National Federation of the Italian Press
Enzo Iacopino, President of the Association of the Journalists.

Translated by Alexandra D'Onofrio