Photo of refugees on a beat in the Mediterranean

Italy: Wiretapping of journalists reporting on migration must be investigated

The Media Freedom Rapid Response and partner organisations welcome the launch of an investigation into the wiretapping of journalists and their sources in Sicily. However, a robust, swift and systematic investigation will be essential for rebuilding trust and ensuring that all journalists, sources and legal professionals in Italy are protected.

The undersigned Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and partner organisations are deeply alarmed by the reports that prosecutors in Trapani wiretapped hundreds of phone conversations involving at least 15 journalists who report on migration in the central Mediterranean. This included conversations with confidential sources and legal representatives. Few conversations are more sensitive and important than those between journalists, their sources or their lawyers. This is a direct and significant threat to media freedom; you cannot protect journalism without protecting journalistic sources.

The use of surveillance technology to intercept and record journalists’ telephone calls is a serious attack on press freedom with worrying implications. It could discourage sources or whistleblowers from coming forward and open up journalists to judicial persecution and intimidation. Further to this, within a framework of inadequate oversight of these tools, the transcripts of the tapped conversations held by state authorities could be used to target the sources and journalists, modify the state’s engagement with legitimate journalistic requests, or be leaked to intimidate journalists or open them up to threats of violence or harassment.

Nik Williams