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Italian Police Brutally Repressed Palestinian Supporters

In the Italian cities of Naples, Turin and Bologna, demonstrations in favour of Palestine, held on 13th February, were violently repressed by the police. Protests spread to various other Italian regions and in front of the headquarters of the Italian public television giant,RAI.

Videos and photos on the social page of No Justice No Peace Italy show the violent reaction by the riot police, using truncheons against supporters. Starting from  Naples, the authorised protest on 13 February resulted in dozens of minor injuries  among the demonstrators.

The root of  the clashes lies in the political instrumentalization of the Italian company RAI, the exclusive concessionaire of the public radio and television service in Italy.  It is necessary to take a step back to  understand the causes of the widespread protest movements in front of the RAI offices in several Italian cities, from Bari to Milan.

The 74th edition of Italy's most popular musical event, the Sanremo Festival, came to an end on 10th Feb. Every year during the event, Italian public opinion revolves around the festival: the nerve centre for the propagation of attention and criticism dominating both in the  media and the Italian households. With numerous national and international guests, Sanremo is rightly seen as an opportunity to bring controversial topics to public opinion at the stage.

Few had the courage to use the Ariston stage this year to launch an appeal against Israeli genocide towards palestinians.

The first voice of dissent is from the Italian rapper and producer, Ghali. Born to Tunisian parents, Ghali's music was the most politically engaged voice of the festival.  The anti-militarist verses of his song Casa Mia had already provoked controversy from the president of Milan’s Jewish community, Walker Meghnagi. Then, the rapper's explicit call to 'Stop the genocide' from the Ariston stage was the coup de grace for the protests of the Jewish community and the criticisms by the Israeli ambassador in Rome.

The last critical voice is the rapper Dargen D'Amico, who voiced out on the ongoing conflict of  Gaza Strip, calling for a ceasefire and asserting the thought  that 'silence is co-responsibility'. 

At Domenica In, the Italian lounge show, hosted by Mara Venier, Dargen D'Amico was rudely interrupted by the presenter Mara Venier,while explaining the positive balance of migration in Italy, in reference to his competing song Onda Alta. “ This is a party and there is no time to deal with such an important topic,' said the host as she greeted the singer. Then the off-screen shot in which Mara Venier approached the journalists complaining: 'Don't embarrass me”.

The root of the protests in support of Palestine and against the subjugation of RAI is to be found in the events involving the Domenica In show. In response to Ghali's statements against genocide, RAI's CEO Roberto Sergio issued a press release to definitively clarify the Italian broadcaster's ideological position:

"Every day our news programmes and programmes recount, and will continue to do so, the tragedy of the hostages in the hands of Hamas as well as remembering the massacre of children, women and men on 7th October. My solidarity with the people of Israel and the Jewish Community is heartfelt and convinced".

The latest episode confirming a one-sided and propaganda-driven editorial line in favour of Israel, adopted since the very beginning of the conflict, was the stance of personal closeness to Israel, via a press release issued live and without any mention of nearly 30,000 Palestinian deaths.

In the Sanremo festival of 2023, host Amadeus had initially invited Ukrainian President Zelensky.  The president's obvious inability to come to Sanremo made Amadeus read a letter from him in the live event. The blatant support for Ukraine reveals the double standard of Italian public television, which is making no particular effort to mask its political preferences. “Politics must stay out of mundane events like Sanremo,” said presenter Amadeus, but one might add, "when it does not conform to the political inclinations of RAI managers”.

The CEO's press release was perceived as a fascist "velina", a communication that imparted directions concerning news and publications. Civil society has largely contested the instrumentalisation of public television in the media coverage of the conflict in Gaza, based on fairly overtly legitimation strategies for Israel, along with the referential strategies of dehumanising Palestinian victims through not only the choice of biased reporting, but also the choice of a precise lexicon, which ignores Palestinian deaths by placing them in the semantic field of Hamas terrorism.

However, the reaction of the police is a more grave issue than the state of the Italian media itself. The aggressive repression of the demonstrations violated the principle of freedom of expression  and freedom of the press from censorship and authorisation, enshrined in Article 21 of the Italian Constitution.

In response to the protests spread all over Italy, a statement was generated from RAI employees for Palestinian support, to distance themselves from the CEO's declarations. Meanwhile, abuses of power and violence carried out by security forces against non-violent and unarmed protesters remain unpunished.

Protesting against Israel’s attack on the Palestinian population is turning out to be a subversive and extremist act, if not a crime, in other countries too. Western democracies are put to the harsh test of time, while the 'only democracy in the Middle East' has revealed itself as the most brutal.

Photo source: No Justice No Peace Italy

Edited by: Jaya Jha

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