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Pro-Russia Media Coverage in Italy Triggers Parliamentary Inquiry 

May 11th, 2022 13:55

US media report­ed in April that pro-Russ­ian nar­ra­tives have been gain­ing strength on main­stream Ital­ian tele­vi­sion since the start of the inva­sion. Accord­ing to a report by Coda Story:

April 21, 2022 “There was a mas­sacre in Bucha, but I hon­est­ly can­not say who did it,” declared the talk show guest as he launched into an argu­ment that Ukraini­ans were, in fact, behind the Bucha mas­sacre. It was a kind of argu­ment I hear reg­u­lar­ly on Russ­ian state TV, but this one came from an Ital­ian writer and com­men­ta­tor speak­ing to an almost mil­lion-strong audi­ence of Zona Bian­ca, a prime time Sun­day evening polit­i­cal talk show on Italy’s Rete4 chan­nel.   Alber­to Fazo­lo spent two years liv­ing in east­ern Ukraine after Rus­sia first invad­ed in 2014. This year, as the war inten­si­fied so did his appear­ances across Ital­ian radio and tele­vi­sion, where he reg­u­lar­ly argues the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment line. Fazo­lo is part of a much larg­er trend: the Ital­ian tele­vi­sion cov­er­age of the war is pep­pered with Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da.   From Krem­lin advi­sors to state TV jour­nal­ists, prime time Ital­ian shows reg­u­lar­ly give plat­form to guests who make argu­ments in favor of the inva­sion or repeat the Kremlin’s argu­ment.   When Russ­ian mis­siles attacked a Ukrain­ian nuclear pow­er sta­tion in mid-March, Marc Innaro, the Moscow cor­re­spon­dent for the nation­al pub­lic broad­cast­er RAI report­ed instead “on the fire that erupt­ed after a sab­o­tage.” He appeared to be quot­ing direct­ly from the Russ­ian state agency TASS.  Around the same time, Rete4 chan­nel invit­ed Krem­lin ide­alogue Alexan­der Dug­in to anoth­er one of its prime time evening shows. Dug­in used the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explain, in flu­ent Ital­ian, that Putin’s inva­sion was real­ly the “war of val­ues, a spir­i­tu­al war.”

Read the rest here.

The Coda Sto­ry report notes that the pro­lif­er­a­tion of pro-Krem­lin nar­ra­tives on Ital­ian tele­vi­sion dur­ing the war is also silenc­ing Ukrain­ian voic­es on the same shows. The report cites Kyiv-based jour­nal­ist Olga Tokar­iuk who said she felt “manip­u­lat­ed and used” when forced into “sur­re­al debates about Russ­ian lies” with stu­dio guests in Italy.

Since the start of Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine, pub­lic and pri­vate Ital­ian TV chan­nels have reg­u­lar­ly host­ed Russ­ian jour­nal­ists to debate the war. On May 1, the pri­vate tele­vi­sion chan­nel Rete 4 broad­cast­ed an inter­view with Russ­ian for­eign min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov in which he claimed that Adolf Hitler “had Jew­ish blood.” UK media recent­ly report­ed that the screen­ing coin­cid­ed with the appear­ance of a promi­nent pro-Krem­lin jour­nal­ist on the rival chan­nel La7, which trig­gered the launch of a par­lia­men­tary inquiry to inves­ti­gate whether some Russ­ian com­men­ta­tors appear­ing on TV net­works could be on Putin’s pay­roll. Accord­ing to a report by the Guardian:

May 9, 2022 An Ital­ian par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee has begun an inves­ti­ga­tion into the spread of dis­in­for­ma­tion, report­ed­ly amid sus­pi­cions that some Russ­ian com­men­ta­tors host­ed on tele­vi­sion net­works could be on Vladimir Putin’s pay­roll.  The probe by Copasir, a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee for the secu­ri­ty of Italy, was trig­gered after an out­cry over a recent inter­view with Russ­ian for­eign min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov on Rete 4, a chan­nel oper­at­ed by the pri­vate­ly owned Medi­aset.  Enri­co Borghi, a mem­ber of Copasir and politi­cian with the cen­tre-left Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty, con­firmed an inves­ti­ga­tion was under way but would nei­ther con­firm nor deny a report in la Repub­bli­ca on Mon­day that at least three unnamed Russ­ian guests on Ital­ian TV were on the Kremlin’s payroll.

Read the rest here and the la Repub­lic­ca report here.

Recent Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report cov­er­age of Russia’s influ­ence oper­a­tions in Italy has included:

  • On March 31, we report­ed on leaked emails and doc­u­ments show­ing how Russ­ian influ­ence group Tsar­grad is coop­er­at­ing with a host of far-right politi­cians and activists in Europe. These include Mat­teo Salvi­ni, the for­mer Ital­ian deputy prime min­is­ter, and inte­ri­or min­is­ter, and cur­rent leader of the far-right Lega party.
  • On Feb­ru­ary 25, we report­ed that Mat­teo Ren­zi, for­mer prime min­is­ter of Italy,  resigned from the board of Delimo­bil, Russia’s largest car-shar­ing ser­vice, fol­low­ing Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine.
  • On Feb­ru­ary 1, we report­ed that Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin held a video meet­ing with senior Ital­ian busi­ness lead­ers to expand ties between Italy and Russia.

In Feb­ru­ary of this year, GIOR pub­lished a report on a new and devel­op­ing alliance between US con­ser­v­a­tives and Euro­pean nation­al­ists, a poten­tial means for Rus­sia to exert covert influ­ence in Europe and the US, using Hun­gary as a plat­form. That report iden­ti­fied Rome as the site for a 2020 Nation­al Con­ser­v­a­tive con­fer­ence attend­ed by Mat­teo Salvi­ni, iden­ti­fied above, as well as Rachele Mus­soli­ni, an Ital­ian politi­cian and coun­cilor in Rome for the far-right Broth­ers Of Italy polit­i­cal party.