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Migrants sit in a boat during a rescue operation by the Italian navy off the coast of Sicily on Nov. 28. Italy is looking to revamp the way it handles the hundreds of thousands of migrants who arrive annually.

Italian journalists under surveillance were covering migrants

There has been condemnation in Italy of reporters being wiretapped during an investigation into migrant trafficking and humanitarian rescue groups.

At least 15 reporters who were covering stories of people trying to reach Italy from Libya had their conversations intercepted.

According to daily newspaper Domani, hundreds of pages of phone conversation transcripts were part of the investigation led by prosecutors in Trapani, Sicily, into the activities of humanitarian rescue groups. The transcripts, it reported on Friday, contained the names of sources and contacts.

Primo Di Nicola, a senator for the populist Five Star Movement who sits on a parliamentary oversight commission for Italian state broadcaster RAI, condemned the wiretapping and also proposed a bill to safeguard journalists. 

There were also protests from Italian media.

“It would be very grave, if (the wiretapping) was a way to reveal the reporter’s sources,” Di Nicola told Arab News. “Protecting sources is at the basis of journalists’ work, and is also defended by the principles of the Italian Constitution.”

The investigations date back to 2017, when the government was cracking down on humanitarian groups rescuing migrants from boats in the Mediterranean.

“We want to know who authorized it (the wiretapping),” the president of the National Italian Press Federation told Italian news agency ANSA. “If the aim was to discover reporters’ sources, then journalists’ professional rights were violated.”

Journalist Nello Scavo, who works for the Catholic daily newspaper Avvenire, was one of those who was wiretapped.

He asked a source how to obtain a video that showed violence against migrants in Libya, a hub for traffickers who launch boats crowded with migrants toward European shores.

“Justice Minister Marta Cartabia must clarify this situation,” Sergio Scandura, Sicily correspondent for Radio Radicale and one of the wiretapped reporters, told Arab News. “We want to know who ordered those phone tappings and why, despite everyone knowing that the sources of the press must always be preserved.” 

There was no comment from Italian prosecutors, who generally do not talk about ongoing investigations.

However, Justice Ministry sources told Arab News that Cartabia was going to send inspectors to Sicily in the next few days in order to “clarify the situation.”      

Source: Arab News

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