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Press Freedom in Italy from 1980 to 2009

The subject of the freedom of the press in Italy is coming up rather a lot in Italy at the moment, largely due to what appear to many to be Italian government attempts to silence dissenting voices.  So, I asked myself, what is Italy’s record on the press freedom front?

I contacted Freedom House, a non-profit, non-partisan organisation which keeps track of press freedom around the world, and asked them to point me in the direction for historical data on press freedom in Italy.  This, Freedom House did.  Thanks to their help, here is a summary of how Italy has been categorised since 1980.

It makes quite interesting reading, and there are some curious coincidences too.

Italy – Freedom of the Press from 1980 to 1993

For the period 1980 to 1993, Italy was listed by Freedom House as being a ‘Free’ country.  Unlike for periods subsequent to 1994 The Freedom House data I looked at for the 1980 to 1993 period did not contain detail of any points ‘score’.  Countries were simply classified as being ‘free’, ‘partially free’ or ‘not free’.

Italy – Freedom of the Press from 1994 to 2001

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The analysis criteria used by Freedom House for the 1994 to 2001 period worked by assigning points for each of the following elements:

  • Laws and regulations that influence media content.
  • Political pressures and controls on media content.
  • Economic influences over media content.
  • Repressive actions (killing of journalists, physical violence against journalists or facilities, censorship, self-censorship, harassment, expulsions, etc.)

The greater the number of points allocated by Freedom House, the lower the level of press freedom.

For the periods referred to in this post from 1994 on, once the cumulative total goes over 30 points, a country is considered ‘Partially Free’ in press freedom terms.  Over 60 points and the county is considered not free at all under Freedom House criteria.

Here is a list of the points for Italy from 1994 to 2001:

1994 – 25 points

1995 – 30 points – Threshold

1996 – 30 points – Threshold

1997 – 27 points

1998 – 27 points

1998 – 27 points

1999 – 28 points

2000 – 27 points

2001 – 27 points

As you can see, for the period 1994 to 2001, Italy either hovered quite close to, or sat on the 30 point threshold.  In 1995 and 1996 Italy was at the tail end of the ‘mani pulite’ corruption scandal, and the covering of backs may indicate why Italy’s press freedom points rose to the 30 point threshold.  As the scandal furore diminished, so did Italy’s rating.  Remember that a score of 30 or less indicates a country with a high degree of press freedom.

In 2002, Freedom House changed the criteria upon which levels of press freedom were assessed.  The criteria became:

  • Laws and regulations that influence media content.
  • Political pressures and controls on media content (including harassment or violence against journalists or facilities, censorship, self-censorship etc)
  • Economic influences over media content.
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Freedom House’s points system stayed the same, in that countries ‘earning’ over 30 points were classified as ‘partially free’ and a score of 60 points of more meant that the countries concerned were not free at all.

Italy – Freedom of the Press from 2002 to 2008

Here are Italy’s points from 2002 to 2008:

2002 – 27 points

2003 – 28 points

2004 – 33 points – Italy became classified as a ‘Partially Free’ country in terms of press freedom.

2005 – 35 points – ‘Partially Free’

2006 – 35 points – ‘Partially Free’

2007 – 29 points

2008 – 29 points

Interestingly, Silvio Berlusconi became Italy’s prime minister for the second time in 2001.  His government lasted until mid-2006.  In fact, the last time Italy started to edge closer to ‘Partially Free’ status was in 1994 and 1995, when, coincidentally, Silvio Berlusconi spent a brief period at the helm of Italy’s government.


Now we come to this year, 2009, and discover that Italy has once more sunk into ‘Partially Free’ territory with a score of 32, a three point increase over 2007 and 2008.

Restrictions on press freedom have not gone unnoticed in Italy.  Oh no.  See this post over on Man of Roma’s interesting blog: October 3. Demonstration Held in Rome to Defend Media Freedom.

Guess who is in power once more?

One Man’s Poison is Another Man’s Meat

While the classification of Italy as a ‘partially free’ nation in terms of press freedom has caused some embarrassment, set alarm bells ringing, and sparked protests in Italy, others may well be rather satisfied to see that the level of press freedom has fallen.

One suspects that certain people would be rather happy to see next year’s Freedom House points allocation for Italy stay in the ‘partially free’ zone, or perhaps even better, rise to 40 or even 50.  This would, of course, indicate that attempts to control Italy’s press were having the desired effect.

Still, 32 is not the end of the world in the terms of press freedom, and is a long way off the 60 points needed to have Italy classified as ‘not free’ at all.  And Italy does have a fair way to go to reach bottom of the class North Korea’s score of 98.

The results of next year’s Freedom House study will be interesting to see, and not just for the writer of this here ‘publication’.


Freedom House historical and recent data

With thanks to Freedom House for having kindly pointed me in the right direction.

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