Writer Roberto Saviano is on trial for his comments on the Italian Prime Minister | Italy
Italian writer Roberto Saviano is on trial on Tuesday for calling Italy’s new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, a “bastard” after he said NGO boats that tried to rescue refugees were to be sunk.
Meloni, the leader of the Brothers of Italy, a party of neo-fascist origins, who had declared that Rome should “repatriate the migrants and sink the boats that saved them”, sued Saviano for criminal defamation, and the year last a judge in Rome ruled that the writer should be tried.
Saviano, who has been living under police escort and hiding from the Neapolitan mafia, the Camorra, since 2006 after being threatened by gangsters following the publication of his book Gomorrah, faces up to three years in prison.
Meloni’s action came after the author, in 2020, was asked on the political television show Piazzapulita for a comment on the death of a six-month-old baby from Guinea after being shipwrecked in the central Mediterranean .
Including in his remarks far-right Northern League leader Matteo Salvini, who as Home Secretary introduced a decree imposing fines of up to €50,000 (£44,000 ) to NGO rescue boats bringing people to Italy, Saviano said: “I just wanted to tell Meloni and Salvini, you bastards! How can you?”
“I’m sick of witnessing this disgusting profit from Saviano,” Meloni replied after Saviano appeared on TV. “Is it normal that this serial hater allows himself to defame, without right of reply, people who are not present on the talk show? I have already asked my lawyers to take legal action against him.
In an earlier interview with the Guardian, Saviano, who has repeatedly criticized the treatment of migrants in Italy, said: “If I am convicted I will respond to my words, but I will never regret losing my peace of mind. mind and maybe even many readers for standing up for the voiceless.
Many writers and literary associations expressed their support for Saviano. PEN International President Burhan Sönmez urged Meloni to drop all defamation charges against Saviano and to uphold Italy’s national and international obligations to respect freedom of expression.
“We urge you to drop the charges against him and do everything in your power to support investigative journalism and independent media,” Sönmez said in an open letter.
“Criminal libel suits exhaust their victims. They steal their time, their money, their life energy. Fundamentally, they are punitive and can lead to self-censorship and discourage investigative journalism which is so necessary in a healthy and functioning democracy.
“They pose a threat to freedom of expression – which is enshrined in Italy’s domestic and international human rights obligations. As Italian Prime Minister, filing a complaint against him would send a chilling message to all journalists and writers in the country, who may no longer dare to speak out for fear of reprisals.
“Saviano is not alone,” added Sönmez. “We stand with him and will continue to campaign until all defamation charges against him are dropped and his right to peaceful expression of his views is confirmed once and for all.”
Tuesday’s hearing comes after Meloni, in the first test of his government’s migration policy, signed into law a controversial anti-migration plan, which includes the refoulement of mostly adult male asylum seekers rescued in the central Mediterranean whom the Italian authorities do not consider to be in need of international protection.
Hundreds of people aboard two NGO lifeboats were prevented from disembarking and left on the ship for two days, with volunteers reporting people sleeping on decks amid infections causing fever and scabies were spreading.