Roman journalists slam nationalist food lobby
ROME – The Rome journalists’ union are standing united in the face of unfair pressure being placed upon one of their own. In January of this year, Alessandro Gaeta produced an investigative report, "Veleni nel piatto" (Poison on our plate), into the toxic products used in Italian foods, which was shown on Speciale TG1, RAI, the national state-run television group's, main TV service. Since then he has faced accusations of being “anti-Italian”, been contested by Paolo Barilla, President of AIDEPI (Association of Italian manufacturers of sweets and pastries), and suffered damage claims from Milan Catering.
Much of the pressure on Gaeta has come from some of the top food industry brands, asking him to tone down or retract his criticisms. Many of the top advertisers in the media are made up of food brands, which may lead us to understand their ability to influence and pressure where the report was unfavourable, and leads us to question Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi’s, statement to businesses and Italian citizens that freedom of information is an untouchable value of democracy.
This is not the first time, however. Food business industries clamoured for the closure of “Di Tasca nostra” (In our pocket), a series that began many years ago, coordinated by Tito Cortese, deeming it “anti-national, contrary to the interests of Made in Italy, alarmist, the result of an anti-modern and extremist culture…”
All sentiments which have been echoed in this case. When looking more closely at Italian food programmes it is discovered that, although they are peppered with industry representatives, there are often no varying points of view. Many of the professionals voicing the opinions gathered by Alessandro Gaeta have never has the opportunity, in other contexts, to express themselves. It is also interesting to note that Mr Barilla did not address his letter of complaint solely to the director of Tg1 and affected corporate bodies, but also to Renzi.
The Rome journalists’ union states that they are confident that the public service does not intend to abdicate, in full compliance with laws and professional ethics, to its central task of revealing the facts, however uncomfortable, yet useful, to inform citizens. Yet the case does beg the question of what it means in this nationalist country to be anti-Italian, and who, or indeed what, really controls the state media.