A lesson in journalism


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Yesterday Piero Ricca asked Andreotti a few questions. After that he had to flee but he was caught and taken to the Police Station. Here is his story. (video)

“Early yesterday afternoon, in the big lecture theatre of the Università Bicocca, in Milan, I put a few questions to the life senator Giulio Andreotti, about the strange absolution that he got on the grounds of “prescription” {timed out} for the crime of associating to commit a crime, that the judges at least until 1980, considered to be “concretely reviewable”. Because I dared to do this, I was identified and threatened by police officers and kept at the Police Station for almost 2 hours. And I was lucky it was just that.
In the big lecture theatre of the Università Bicocca a few journalists were interviewing our life-long employee about other topics: Moggi, the national team, “the decline of public morality as can be seen from the recent intercepts”, the relationship between hopeful actresses and men in power and so on. Andreotti was comfortably seated, relaxed. Every so often he made a joke and the journalists laughed heartily. The university lecturers around formed a festive circle.

At a certain moment I entered the picture and I handed Andreotti a sheet of paper with an extract from the judgement of the Palermo Appeal Court that was then confirmed by the Supreme Court. With the most courteous tone possible I asked him to comment on it. A dialogue of 3 or 4 minutes ensued and I recorded it on the video recorder at a distance of less than 3 or 4 metres.

I asked him about the responsibility attributed to him by the Italian justice system. I asked him if he thought it was normal for someone to be in Parliament as a life senator being described like that in a definitive judgement. I pointed out that in the opinion of many international publications, “the Andreotti case” was considered to be a scandal and the interview continued like that.

He replied and invited me to read the whole judgement, since “from extracts you can understand little”, he stated that the "prescription" was a result only of the doubts that the court had about a single meeting (according to him that never took place) with the mafia person Bontade (“a certain Bontade”). He added that when he’s abroad he encounters only respect and solidarity. And he continued like that, minimising and finding slip roads to escape from the questions, with his typical eyes shaped like slots.

While I was asking the questions some of his personal bodyguards in plain clothes pushed and pulled me from behind. At this I rebelled immediately out loud. I asked Andreotti if it is still possible to ask questions to politicians in this country and he replied that no one was stopping me. He said that it is a right to ask questions “and to answer them as well” then he added: “But if you are here to make trouble then….” The body guards meanwhile were surrounding me and holding me from behind.

At the end of the interview, State Police officers tried to take me away by pulling me with force. I protested in a loud voice in the middle of the lecture theatre, while the conference was beginning. The police disappeared. No one raised an eyebrow.

I stayed in the lecture theatre for another 20 minutes, sitting peacefully and recording on the video. Then I went out on my own and I was treated like a criminal.

A private University guard started to shout at me menacingly. He shouted and pushed me violently out of a side door. Andreotti’s bodyguards held me and threatened to take the video camera away. They ordered me to show my documents. The tone was aggressive, neurotic like a bad western.

There was obviously an attempt to intimidate me. While the private guard continued to shout and threaten me I got myself free and went away.

The police and the private guards followed me and immobilised me in a place where no one goes by and my arguments went unheeded. Arguments like: “I have done nothing wrong. I have simply asked a politician some questions. It is allowed to do a recording of public personalities and events. If you commit abuses I will denounce you.”

The agents continued repeating: “You cannot behave like that with the senator. Your questions were not relevant. You cannot make a recording without permission. You have also recorded us. And then we already know who you are. It was you in Rome in front of the Senate. Now you will give us the material and then we will take you to the Police Station.”

While they were saying this, one held me up against a wall and the other got my backpack with the video camera and an audio recorder.

I objected: “Leave it to a judge to decide who is right. You are committing an abuse and anyway I demand to know your names.”
An agent replied: “Now I am the law. I am the judge.” Then turning to his colleague he added: “Now we will take his fingerprints, that way the friend will start to calm down.” The negative influence of American westerns cannot be calculated.

Then I was taken by other police officers who drove me to the Greco police station. I was kept there for more than an hour and a half. They took the backpack. By chance, I had committed a grave crime and did not have my regular identity card with me. But I could show them an ID card of the type used for elections that I had on me by chance. We had to wait for a fax from Parma with a photocopy of my document.

This meant that the procedure that had been mentioned, photo identification and fingerprinting in Questura was not needed. This would have been an amusing event for one of Milan’s most identified people.

For all this time I was prevented from telephoning my lawyer and I was not allowed to make or receive any other calls. I asked to be allowed to do this but was told: “You must keep your mobile switched off.”

I noticed that the officers at the Greco police station consulted others by phone. These included Andreotti’s bodyguards. They were trying to decide whether or not to impound the recording equipment. While they were engaged in these complex negotiations I made them aware that I am well known in the environs of the Questura and elsewhere for my activity as a committed citizen interested in politics. I cited names and facts including declarations and parliamentary investigations concerning the Milan police.

At the end I was released together with the video camera and the other stuff. The officials had drawn up a document “for internal use” that I was not allowed to see.

That’s it. I was treated in this way because, in the middle of the silence of most news operations, I asked 2 or 3 questions to a life senator who has been judged by our country’s justice system, to have colluded with the mafia. He was saved from a sentence because of prescription. Because of the time delay. And I have never even had a fine in my whole life.

In strict coherence, the regional evening news (TG3) defined my activity (of asking questions as a journalist) as a provocation. And today’s edition of il Corriere della Sera reports the news of my transfer to the police station. As “following a discussion with Andreotti”. In the wording above the title, the word “discussion” becomes “fight”.

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 10:48 AM in | Comments (18) | Comments in Italian (translated) Post a comment | Sign up | Send to a friend | | GrilloNews | listen_it_it.gifListen | TrackBack (1) |
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Come on! that's not an attitude as worst as Pakistani police have towards people. Italian police would have given more weight to the law which is the reason why you felt little over tortured?

Posted by: Mcgill | June 27, 2007 08:51 AM

Blisco, my dear, I'm sorry but I can tell you a lot of episodes about "kindness" of the italian police! They treat people like criminals even if they did anything, and as woman you can expect to be verbally molested!
What's happened to your russian friend could be read as a sign of more flexibility with the rules, which may be a good thing in some respects, but not always...

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | June 26, 2006 03:59 PM

Raf, I don't thing that police is worser in Italy. Frequently, they are more tolerant than in any other country. You can see that in the everyday life with the controls in the airports, along the roads and streets in the cities and so on. I pass recently a control in an airport with a russian friend of mine which was without visa.
This is unbelievable in other countries. So, what this paparazzo says it's not what he shows in the film. He says that the camera was 3 to 4 meters far?
Go back to see if this is possible and you will see by yourself.
He says that he was pushed and pull? If this was true, the camera doesn't show that somebody was jostled or turned upside down.
On the other hand, if you don't see any other journalist to take the defence of him, it means that this guy was not more hustled than them.
It's not the first time than Ricca is making troubles like this with politicians which he doesn't like so he has to assume the reaction of the police which is called frequently for nothing.
I also had a look in the Grillo's films with Prodi . I agree that it's an important step to be received for a talk but I disagree with Grillo when is saying the word cazzo for nothing to explain his ideas. If we don't respect the rules we have not to expect than authorities respect our point of views. So, to be or to do like a paparazzo, is not to be a journalist.It's like if a guy is coming to my home to ask me while I have not been lapidated the last time I went with another woman. Believe me, if this it happens and I don't breack his camera is just because I will be 90 years old too. So, if we have to build our opinion about the police listening this kind of guys in this case its just that we are frustrated like him and we are ready to do anything to atract the attention on us.

Posted by: blisco jaio | June 26, 2006 03:09 PM

Blisco, I understand your point of view, but I can't agree with the manner of the policemen.
Andreotti is a public figure, and as such must expect to be pressed by the reporters about his not very transparent judicial past.

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | June 26, 2006 01:17 PM

Stefano, try to read better. I'm not for this politicians. The Andreotti case starts ten years ago. If a journalist wants to tell us the truth, Piero arrives a little late. Here is just trying to provoke a scandal and even for that he is too late. For the rest I have already said what I'm thinking.

Posted by: blisco Jaio | June 26, 2006 12:05 AM

Blisco, do you realise what you're saying? In the whole Italy, where journalists make sure the people they interview are comfortable with the questions they're going to ask them, ONE person asks FOR THE FIRST TIME to the "Hon." Andreotti to comment the sentence he received for collusion with mafia, and you disagree with him?

The power of media, Blisco, works the other way around: proof of what I'm saying is in the fact 70% of Italian citizens, both from right and left, assumes that Andreotti was absolved where, in fact, he only avoided jail for prescription of crimes.

Whether Piero Ricca acts funny or not, let's talk about it. I think his behaviour comes from realising what it's been going on in these years: that a little man looking like Yoda of Star Wars and colluded with mafia for important economic interest is being treated like a superstar, given senatorship for life, asked to sponsor spots like the one for the mobile phone company "3", and all this with the approval of millions of appearantly blind italians.

I do not think this is gossip. Here's a man, however old or 'clever', which committed crimes of importance comparable with his former political position (he was our premier back then), that is governing us, together with other and undoubtly more trustworthy people, for *the rest of his life*.

You used the words "Andreotti" and "dignity" in the same sentence. From my perspective, this is a *huge* mistake a priori, especially given the portrait you depict of the otherwise much "cleaner" (although "annoying") Ricca.

But honestly, I'm not surprised about your opinion, as it's known worldwide that in Italy, to achieve social status, you must be committing crimes and turn a blind eye on who's abusing the rules.

In his way, that day, Piero Ricca represented me. That's what "professional" politicians are there for years to achieve, and don't.

Posted by: Stefano Capuzzimato | June 25, 2006 08:32 PM

A camera is filming Andreotti’s reaction and we hear a voice asking questions and then complaining like a little girl who wants to keep attention because somebody is pinching her ass. If this is a new hero of an italian comedy is time to say that italian movies are not like they were in the 60s.
For me, Ricca is a a poor man and can say whatever he wants , he doesn’t deserve more consideration than a charlatan and I understand the security who, has the right to control if this kind of guy is an agitator or not before to release him.
After all, Ricca is still alive and he can count to us and show us his story. This it means that he is free to do it and that the police is not free to empeach him. If this is not freedom, what it is ?
It’s up to us to judge what is better to see : A journalist turning around a politician or a fly around a shit ?
We have to decide if we have to choose a concierge talk in a Grillo’s stair-head while we are waiting the lift or if we are going to see this kind of reports with disdain.
I'm sorry for those who applaud Ricca but I'm against this kind of journalists who are using the power of the media just to create scoops. Gossiping like that is not better than to be a paparazzo and paparazzi are not better than mafia or corrupted politicians for the abroad's image of Italy and for images tout court.
Finally, the one who has more dignity here is Andreotti, a 87 years old man who is still looking clever enough to answer to a young cock who is acting like a young hen while she is loosing some feathers to save an egg.
I don’t want to be on the Andreotti’s side but I will be never with this kind of italians like Ricca and certainly less than never with those who are promoting this kind of people as if they were heroes.
Piero you are great! Said somebody here.
If we are making heroes so easy we don't deserve better.

Posted by: blisco jajo | June 24, 2006 06:06 PM

So these people are in prison? Obviously there was enough proof to send them in there. Are you familiar with a bird in had in worth more than 3 in the bush? Even if one of these people are terrorist, then it is worth it.

Posted by: Ramona Santorelli | June 23, 2006 06:54 PM

I can't believe on how cowardly the italian journalists have become. Shame on them! May they rot in Dante;s seventh circle of hell. ... Why have the main stream News media not come to your rescue Mr. Ricca? Shame o the whole lot of them. I have been visiting italy for the last 10 years, i have noticed its rapid decline into an immoral abyss. Now we have criminals in power, fraud on the soccer field and a system that reeks of moral decline. I cry for italy.

Posted by: vanni di ponzano | June 23, 2006 05:55 AM

I can't believe on how cowardly the italian journalists have become. Shame on them! May they rot in Dante;s seventh circle of hell. ... Why have the main stream News media not come to your rescue Mr. Ricca? Shame o the whole lot of them. I have been visiting italy for the last 10 years, i have noticed its rapid decline into an immoral abyss. Now we have criminals in power, fraud on the soccer field and a system that reeks of moral decline. I cry for italy.

Posted by: vanni di ponzano | June 23, 2006 05:54 AM

I can't believe on how cowardly the italian journalists have become. Shame on them! May they rot in Dante;s seventh circle of hell. ... Why have the main stream News media not come to your rescue Mr. Ricca? Shame o the whole lot of them. I have been visiting italy for the last 10 years, i have noticed its rapid decline into an immoral abyss. Now we have criminals in power, fraud on the soccer field and a system that reeks of moral decline. I cry for italy.

Posted by: vanni di ponzano | June 23, 2006 05:53 AM

I agree 100% with you, Prince.
We italians are hardened to bear everything. The essential rights are constantly ignored, about all the right to be considered innocent until proved otherwise and to be treated as such by the police!

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | June 22, 2006 10:11 PM

I believe Italy should belong to the watch list of Amnesty International as some other Third World countries where individual rights are infringed sistematically.

Posted by: Giovanni Principe | June 22, 2006 09:57 PM

As my german ex boy friend came to Italy, he was surprised how the italian police was treating halted people: like a criminal even if they are only exercising their rights. Everybody was halted by the police knows what I mean.
This case is the umpteenth evidence.

Posted by: Raffaella Biferale | June 22, 2006 09:02 PM

Go Piero Go!!!
Good old Andreotti used to say: "Il potere logora chi non ce l'ha...". How true this is, eh? We need people like you in Italy, we're kind of elevating the feet kissing techniques to an art level, in true italian fashion, aren't we? Feet kissing to the scum of the earth that is, but we're italians, we're used to it...
Good luck!!!

Posted by: Giuseppe Graceffa | June 22, 2006 07:08 PM

Piero you are great!
why don't you take this tremendous case
of abuse against civil rights to Bruxelles?
In Italy you waist time. If even Rai 3, the
ex red fortress, is part of the fake and silent journalism, there is no more hope.
Since Berluskoni and his squadristi in black
and green shirts controlled the power, many policemen and carabinierifeel more free about the law and more arrogant with the less dangerous people
(GB-Bolzaneto, Lampedusa immigrants lager camp's abuses, beating of a drunk moroccon guy in the center of a city, during the day...but the list will be too long I think).
If things won't change with the new government, people should forward the protest to the international organisms.

Posted by: Paolo Antonio Lovi | June 22, 2006 02:32 PM

Dear Mr Ricca you have my support & solidarity. Unlike you I am not surprised by the TG3 Policy/Political agenda. TG3 is no better than the others. TG3 revels in giving false and racists news. They claimed that the Belgian who was killed for his electronic instrument was a Mahgreb even though this was wrong. The attacker was a Polish national. This is state of Italian media. This barbaric racists policy is the norm in Italia.

The text is my respect to the Pakistani journalist Hayatullah Khan, killed for doing his job. He has 4 children: Naila Hayat (8), Farishta Hayat (6); Kamran Hayat (5); and Faisal Hayat (3).
Lesson from ISI’s killing of
a Journalist in Pakistan
Published June 19, 2006.

"Khan was found dead on Friday, June 16, 2006, three kilometers south of Mir Ali near the Afghan border. He had been handcuffed and appeared to have been shot from behind while trying to escape, his brother, Ehsanullah, told the BBC. Reporters Without Borders have reported that he had been shot several times in the head. "

Unlearn old lessons of journalism
Published March 05, 2003.

"The report, which became the root cause of my ultimately getting labelled as an anti-state element, was actually the result of my repeated requests to the Frontier Post to expose the elements that suck the nation's blood in the name of human rights and poverty alleviation."

I depend on journalist like you giving me a chance to voice my protest, to inform me, to educate me with their your vast knowledge, experience and desire to bring out the truth. Granted that we can count journalist like you on the fingers of one hand but they still exist.

Posted by: Marcia Visanji | June 22, 2006 12:55 PM

You certainly have my sympathies Mr. Ricca. What’s going on in Italy at the moment? Outrageous to say the least. If you cant ask a question without being taken to the police station.
1984 here we come.

Posted by: Patrick Kerr | June 22, 2006 12:12 PM

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