Italy | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Status change explanation: Italy's rating moved downward from Free to Partly Free as a result of high media concentration and increased political pressures on media outlets.

The country's free and independent media institutions are threatened by government interference and the highest level of media concentration in Europe. This trend results from the 20-year failure of political administrations to reform the framework for independent journalism and access to information. In 2003, in response to calls for reform, legislators introduced the controversial so-called Gasparri law, which would have allowed increased cross-ownership of broadcast and print media. Critics asserted, however, that the bill was tailor-made to circumvent a court decision unfavorable to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's media empire, reversing a ruling that would have forced Berlusconi's company to convert its station, Rete 4, to less-profitable satellite television. The bill was approved by parliament but vetoed by President Carlo Ciampi in December. In response, Berlusconi signed a decree allowing Rete 4 to continue terrestrial broadcasting until April 2004. Claims of government interference in reporting have increased. For example, some journalists complained that coverage of Berlusconi's controversial comments to the European Parliament in July had been deliberately "softened and cut." The editor of Corriere della Sera, the major daily, resigned in May amid allegations that he was pressured to quit due to his tense relations with government officials. A journalist in Sicily was attacked by unidentified men in August after publishing articles about local drug trafficking, and shots were fired at the home of a journalist in Sardinia who also appeared to be targeted because of his work. Berlusconi's substantial family business holdings control the three largest private television stations and one newspaper, as well as a significant portion of the advertising market. As prime minister, he is able to exert influence over public-service broadcaster RAI as well, a conflict of interest that is one of the most flagrant in the world. However, the concentration is considerably less in the print media, which continue to be critical of the government.