Giornale di Sicilia outraged by murdered journalist film

A scene from Mediaset's film on Mario Francese. Image: Il Fatto Quotidiano.

ROME - The Giornale di Sicilia called for a film on their former journalist, Mario Francese, who was murdered by the mafia, to be blocked on Sunday night, calling the piece "coarsely false," but Mediaset went ahead with its broadcast on Channel Five.

 Francese was a reporter for Il Giornale in the 1970s who began to uncover the changing role and hierarchy of the Cosa Nostra in Sicily. He was murdered outside his home in Jan 1979. The film is part of a fictional series called "Free Dreamers" based around real figures who opposed the mafia in Italy.

 The controversy surrounding the movie relates to two scenes in particular. One has Il Giornale's editor at the time, Federico Ardizzone, intimate to Francese that he should stop reporting on the mafia. The second, depicts a photo of the same editor, allegedly in the company of key Cosa Nostra members at a shooting club.

 Such portrayals have proven doubly inflammatory to the Sicilian newspaper because Ardizzone's son, Antonio Ardizzone, is the current editor.

 In a scathing editorial for the paper, the younger Ardizzone and Marco Romano argued that "we don't hesitate to define this representation of the facts as coarsely false, intentionally artificial and theatrically incongruous in timing, logic and content."

 They labelled the film the work of "self-styled moralists, exponents of an anti-mafia more in words and manners, [attempting] to discredit the image of Il Giornale di Sicilia and the conduct of its editors" and stressed that no one at the paper "had ever impeded" Francese's reporting. The paper has also begun legal efforts to have its logo and newspapers removed from the film.

 Ardizzone and Romano took particular issue with the part in the film where "a photo is shown of a mafioso, Michele Greco, together with the editor. Imagine that, if it had ever existed, it would date back to decades before, when people in Palermo sat at the same table." Well before, they suggested, any of these figures had been identified as mafiosi.

 But those comments are hotly contested by the film's co-writer, Claudio Fava. In comments to Il Fatto Quotidiano, Fava called the editorial "False. Patently false. Everybody knew at the end of the seventies, that Michele Greco was the head of the mafia in Palermo" and had they met with him, they would have been well aware that they "represented the effective and indisputable power of Cosa Nostra."

 Il Fatto Quotidano also drew attention to the fact that the claims were not totally unfounded. They noted that in a 2002 court hearing in Palermo, Gioacchino Pennino junior had alleged that members of Cosa Nostra had frequently attended a shooting club alongside the likes of Federico Ardizzone.

 They likewise printed excerpts from the judgement of that case which noted that the Sicilian paper's editorial line had shifted significantly in the years following Francese's death.