The Italian NGO ” Ossigeno per l’informazione” (Oxygen for Information), which aims at defending the right to free expression of journalists who have been threatened because of their work has proposed to create “hotspots” in all European countries where legal experts and associations in charge of the integrity of the press ascertain the validity of their claims and alert the authorities of the country on press freedom attacks. The hope is that national authorities will then find a way to improve the situation in which journalists have to live and work.
This proposal, which had been announced during the seminar held on October 10th at UGent University, was subsequently illustrated and discussed during a press conference at the Press Club Brussels Europe on October 11th.
Given the high number of serious attacks against Italian journalists and bloggers (321 so far in 2017, 3406 from 2006 to date) and the almost impossible task of identifying and punishing the attackers it is necessary to create in Italy (and elsewhere) a “hotspot”, a public platform to be used to convey information and urgent alerts to the institutions concerning the most serious violations of the right to inform and to be informed.
Alberto Spampinato, director of the “Ossigeno per l’Informazione” explained that the proposal, which is the result of ten years’ experience in monitoring attacks in Italy, “is adressed to all Western European countries since in each one of them both a regular and independent monitoring of violations, as it is done in Italy, is necessary together with hotspots able to work as active interfaces of the Platform created by the Council of Europe to promote the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists. Moreover universities in each country should be engaged in training specialised observers able to to manage these platforms”.
Finally, Spampinato did also invite media and institutions to use a suitable language concerning violent attacks and warned against the misuse of unfounded defamation accusations against journalists and bloggers. These actions, he said, are clearly aimed at preventing the right to inform and to be informed. “We have to say that these actions are spreading a kind of violent censorship. We have to call it by its real name. We have to ask that the deliberate violations of the right to information are punished as a crime, as it happens for other rights” he concluded. This is what has been discussed yesterday during a seminar with students and teachers that Ossigeno helped to organise at Ghent University with the participation of representatives of the European Federation of Journalists, IPI (the International Press Institute) and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) in Leipzig.