"The media communication between the right to report news and moral responsibility"

A conference promoted by AEREC at the Chamber of Deputies

Putting temporarily aside the economic issues that characterized most of the conferences promoted in recent years, for the 2006 edition of the Academy Day, AEREC wanted to recall the cultural vocation of the institution, organizing a conference on the theme of "media communication between the right to report news and moral responsibility "in which experts in the field and a large audience took part in the prestigious and elegant location of Hall of Columns of the Chamber of Deputies.


The reasons that led to choose a topic related to world of communication were briefly described to the attendees upon opening of the speeches, by the President of AEREC, Dr. Ernesto Carpintieri. "The need of discussing and of conducting a dialogue on the media communication of today occurred to me while watching the usual evening news. A piece of news, or rather the way in which this latter was announced by the speaker, caused me indignation, if not anger. The news of the discovery of a dead woman, murdered, beheaded, with her head six metres away from the body. I wondered: Why do they give information in such a strong manner? Why did they add to a news story, macabre details, such as: the neighbours were attracted by the odour of the smelly corpse of a woman killed with forty stabs, in an obvious state of decomposition? I think it is unfair and outrageous to give the news in this way. I believe it could damage the souls of human beings, especially of children who are growing, I do not think this is a fertile ground for developing the consciousness of the younger generation. I wonder, therefore, whether it is time to ask loudly the leaders of television and print media to be more careful in dealing with news stories. And I would like to ask you to reflect on this situation, in this place and to the distinguished guests who responded to the invitation of the Academy. “


Prof. Guido Crapanzano, Professor of Communication Sciences, coordinated the speeches. "It is true that we are often indignant at the way in which certain facts and proposals, some images are exposed in the press and on television. But if this outrage is clearly present among us, it is less for the general public, which basically feeds on these things. One thing which we must take into account is that journalists respond to the public, to all of us, morally and ethically, but they must also respond to the interests of editors. In this regard, I would listen to the opinion of Dr. Giancarlo Innocenzi, the Commissioner of the Authority for the Guarantees in Communications, former Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Communications during the last government, one of the most influential people to express an opinion on the moral issue of communication. “

Dr Innocenzi: "The theme chosen for the conference is topical more than ever, not only for the events of recent hours, of these days, which certainly open new scenarios. The story of the disclosure of the telephone interceptions that are not strictly relevant to any crimes, including persons who are not involved in criminal investigations, certainly brought to the attention of all, of the politics, of the press, the theme dealing with the idea establishing the boundary between the right to report news and the respect for privacy. "Prior to institutional assignments I was involved in television for many years; perhaps I am a repentant television operator because I became quite critical of this means. I have often wondered: TV is bad because the public wants a bad TV, or because it is given to the public a bad TV? Despite the many debates and conferences on this matter we have not yet arrived to offer a definitive answer and a solution. In other words, the press has exceeded the limit of the right to report news because it is the public that wants it, or the truth is that the public is accustomed and always wants more? The threshold of voyeurism appears today ever higher. When the format of Big Brother was born, we were all quite shocked, but the second edition, compared to the first, was a notch higher, and we know that around the world there are editions of Big Brother whose threshold is now so high that, comparing them, the first edition seems an educational show. It is true that the problem must be addressed from a regulatory point of view. Maybe we need to strengthen the rules, laws or decrees to make a law that should be discussed in a bipartisan way. But there are also parties, of course, who say: pay attention, and how can one prevent the right report news? And this is fair. I did this job and I know it is dangerous for a democracy to prevent the dissemination of news. “

"In this period one has touched three issues which affected the sensitivity of us all. First, the high finance with the Fazio case, then football, which obviously enters the homes of each of us, and then the gossip about royalties and the whole background. The fault is of the journalists that disclosed, and therefore went beyond the right report news or the magistrates who intercepted even things that were not the specific object of the investigation so there were the extremes for interceptions and perhaps even for publications? Or of other operators, which are the ones that will open the drawers, take the documents and give them to journalists? The subject is vast and complex. The newspapers do that because the public, accustomed to this threshold which continues to rise, wants it. “

"The problem is primarily an issue that we have forgotten: the issue of ethics. I begin to think that Karl Popper was right: it is necessary that each of the communication operators should have a licence. Without any driving licence, one cannot drive, and possibly without a licence the communication cannot even be driven as well. Until recently we were accustomed to consider the media limited to print, and then the radio came, television and so on. Today, the technological evolution is so quick and fast, that if we wanted to enclose the period since Gutemberg invented the press today, in an imaginary day of 24 hours, it would pass only 50 seconds. Television, like we the traditionally perceive it, maybe will no longer exist. A few months ago, the mobile TV appeared inside the mobile phones, soon we shall have TV inside the Internet. Television is already interactive, digital or satellite TV. All these instruments require a fuel that is the content. It requires many contents. For many contents, many operators are required. These latter unfortunately improvise and even those who do not improvise lost their perception of the threshold level, of the problem of ethics. We should all be outraged, because we are coming to a level where the keyhole is no longer enough. The reason why the reality shows work is because each of us wants to go and look in the keyhole of the neighbours to see what they are doing, but we become angry when someone is looking through our keyhole. This is what happens: at some point we will be all inside this great reality show, and we shall wonder what has happened, why we did not stop in time. I do not worry so much about the problem of interceptions; I am concerned about the problem of the new generations, about the protection of minors. The occurrence of the great tools of communication has led to this: there is no protection. “

"Some time ago a mobile operator proposed to the public to realize its clips on the mobile phone and if they had been downloaded by others, they would have been given the right to a free recharge. There were about 100-150 clips per day; it is a pity that most of them were pornographic, and nearly all children could download them, because all children have mobile phones and know how to use them better than adults, like the any other tool of new technologies. This is a serious problem, namely the protection of the least protected. That is why the border is unstable: What is the right to report news, where is too much? You cannot go any further. The answer is this: because we have already gone further. When I did this job, we weren’t doing too much; we had some ethics, control. There is a code of ethics, not only of journalists but also within Rai. But if you ask any journalist of Rai if he has ever read it, he would not know what to answer. "

" I do not agree that we need to invent new coercive tools. There are already many, but we need to enforce them. The newspapers should not publish news which does not apply to persons under investigation, but they publish it. Judges should not intercept people who are not involved in the investigation, but they do it. Within the courts nobody should open drawers and distribute material to journalists, but they do that. So, rather than pass new laws, we must respect what we have. We must all get around a table and return to this word which is the most important and fundamental to whom does this job: ethics. We are approaching a level where the threshold is too high. We have to recover the values that are behind this great heritage that is communication, which is and has been crucial. I do not demonize the mobile phone, on the contrary, for example, think how many lives were saved during the tsunami thanks to mobile phones. All means of communication have a huge effect; the problem is to know how to use them, with appropriate ethics. The tools we have now are too many and highly invasive. If McLuhan returned now, he wouldn’t speak anymore about the global village, because now we have become a global whole. We ourselves have asked the Authority of Privacy to address the issue commonly. “


Prof. Crapanzano gave the floor to the next speaker, Monsignor Vittorio Formenti of the Vatican Secretariat of State. "In the early 90s, after the death of Dante Alimenti, an experiment was carried out to the journalism school of St. Peter in Catholic journalism. I was instructed to teach the theory and technique of Religious Information. We had a group of willing young, some of whom also had a certain career, and with these young people, I read two documents of a great pastoral figure of a parson, the Milan Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. He had sent two letters to his diocese, entitled "The cloak strip" and "I am at the door". Pastoral letters which were a well defined drawing, which gave directions to the world of communication in order to find an ethical way. Carlo Maria Martini then used very beautiful metaphors, referring to the way of Christ in the Gospel, which informed people with parables. He taught drawing from the experience of every day, the peasant world, the world of fishermen, the world of its listeners, a world that was very simple, and very communicative. If we can make a reference to a person who in recent decades has been a great communicator, let us talk about Giovanni Paolo II, who had the quality of communicating to the world, and communicate not only the Christian proclamation, that it was communicated as Pope , but above all his love to man. "Let me take a step back to quote a few words of Pope Paul VI, who was the son of a journalist, so he lived communication in his family. In one of his first speeches to the press as Pope, he made the radiography of the journalist, of the communicator. It is interesting because it is used precisely the adjectivization typical of Paul VI. Quoting Cicero, he said that the journalist 'omnia novit', the journalist knows everything. We read these few lines because they are very beautiful and written with wit: "The journalist knows everything. The virtuality of his thought and his language are such as to cause embarrassment to whoever dares to talk with him, even if the other person has a serious and dense word to say. But compared to the agile, flexible, happy words of the journalist, it remains timid and stunted, almost doubtful to come to the lips. Speaking to journalists, one has a reason to feel fear. They are ready and very able to snatch a word, an allusion, a sentence, and find within ten, a hundred different meanings, and give them what they want. Their curiosity is a spread network, in which the unwary who hears, candid and ingenuous, falls easily overwhelmed by unexpected issues, from compromising questions, from unexpected judgements, free and bold, ruthless and sometimes inaccurate. “

"I happened to spend some time with a journalist who approached me and I know what it means to feel judged on your whole essence, concerning the little that you know how to give, but also on your person. The journalist must then translate that into words which in turn derive from the news report of every day, and must be the architect of a great word, which is the truth. John Paul II, a great communicator as well, often speaks to journalists, look at the 55 volumes of his teaching, to find how many times he spoke with them. He said this beautiful phrase: "If you want to draw the identikit of a genuine freedom of information, we could say that it consists in the vital synthesis between autonomy, truth, good common sense and a sense of responsibility". “

"I allow myself to appeal to my memory quoting a phenomenon about which we read in the newspapers a few years ago so that we should understand the scope of these words of John Paul II. You all remember when the journalist Camilla Cederna, through a series of articles that, if I remember correctly, became a book, accused President Leone, a man of great political value, and forced him to resign. There were headlines in capitals in the newspapers for a man who had to pay a very high price. When some time later, the judges decided that he was innocent, we found out that on the second page in very small letters. That means misrepresenting the responsibility of the communicator, who is the one that has to be a witness to the truth, and the truth is a great attention to man. "I read a phrase that was delivered only a few days ago by our Foreign Minister, Monsignor Giovanni Laiolo, who yesterday received a new task from the Pope: he leaves the diplomatic world and will lead a somewhat difficult task for him, before the United Nations Assembly. He wrote: "The dignity of man is the seed where all rights are born and is the ultimate foundation of any legal system, including the international legal system." I quote again a phenomenon. I see here Mrs Maria Pia Fanfani, who knows very well Africa because she is personally involved and went many times “to get her hands dirty”. Try to think how many times we read about Africa in the newspapers. I say, I do not know if it is the truth, namely that in Africa there are no longer correspondents of our newspapers. People are satisfied with only small agency news. And I want to remind you that a small agency came from the heart and mind of a journalist who is an Albanian father, Comboni missionary, who created MISNA, that agency that provides us with news especially from Africa coming from the base, because they are obtained by missionaries. No one talks about Africa, and Africa is a continent, but Africa is not interesting, because the interests of great powers are elsewhere. This is the truth, the attention of man, the dignity. Coming back to the thought of the President Carpintieri, I speak about the dignity of every person, important or less important, rich or poor. This is in my opinion the ethics that we must remember every time we provide communication. In coming here, I learned a piece of news from an agency: a journalist killed in Mogadishu. How many operators of the truth, precisely in order to inform, gave their lives? We pay homage to them today. Precisely because, going to do their job, there is no longer need to give one’s life. We work together to communicate, because our world should be a world in which it is beautiful to live and love"


Prof. Francesco Petrino, a professor of Legal Communication at the University La Sapienza wanted to dwell on what could or should be the line between information and the turning into spectacle of a piece of news.

"Today we do not receive anymore the news as it should be, we receive it as a show, even when this is not necessary. The last example we can cite is that of Vittorio Emanuele’s arrest. Apart from what may be our opinions on this character, on his private life or his public life, I think that arresting a person, and taking it for thousand kilometres from Milan to Potenza, at 5 am, throwing him in the cell as if he were any other monster, is not worthy of a civilized country. This goes for Vittorio Emanuele but also for any person suspected or accused of criminal facts for which has not yet intervened a real verification. It happened that, for example, one of the defenders of Vittorio Emanuele, the lawyer Piervito Bardi of Potenza, president of the Criminal House of the city, who was arrested at 4 in the morning two year ago because of suspected collusion with a client. I do not see the need to arrest a lawyer at 4 am, and handcuff him to leave home in his pyjamas, take him away as if he were a criminal. But the fact is that the most criminal thing was that at the gate, at that time, there were about twenty reporters and 5 television channels. No one can understand why the judges must resort to this show, because the journalists in collusion with the judicial system must use this method of communication. It is because people are not satisfied anymore with this normal form of information? It is not true. It you want to give the public more and more, to have a high audience, to have increased consumerism of newspapers, in order to push people to read but not to educate themselves, because one thing is to read monstrous things, and another is to bring about correct information, even correct counter-information. This is one aspect for which it is not necessary only a code of ethics as it currently exists, but also an ethic of communication that should fully discern the show, something different that should be reserved for the show. It is not conceivable that we do see heads cut off or raped children. The problem concerns our children, our grandchildren, who will live a sort of decadentism of information and of the communication that will become non-educative. “

"Today entertainment of cinema and of television gives us only non-education. It teaches us how to become criminals. Most of the cinema that has been proposed to us on television is a continue teaching and an exhortation to violence, theft, cunningness; is this the world that we want tomorrow? I think absolutely not. That is why there is a need for all to take a pen and paper and write to the editors of newspapers, television stations, to claim, to the Guarantor of Communication for measures to be taken. Measures are required because the information, the show, the interception and the invasion of privacy took over so that none of us is sure that we are free to move, to be able to meet someone, talk on the phone, because we are all listened to. “

"In a city like Lecce, during 2005, there were 150.000 interceptions only to the president Fitto. It represents the double of the interceptions carried out in the United States in one year. In Italy there are, on average, 300 thousand interceptions per year, TelecomItalia has been lucky enough to get in this business that makes a profit of 450-500 million a year that citizens is paid by citizens. It makes one wonder: do interceptions really serve for judicial purposes or are they used for someone to grow 'fat'? “


The closure of the conference was entrusted to a young operator of the entertainment world, Andrea Pezzi, known face on MTV and now on RaiDue.
"I learned some things starting to work in television, on the subject of communication, in particular, there is one thing that was very important for me, namely division. I love dividing into levels, because I believe that people's lives are marked by levels of consciousness, learning etc. In the communication, when you are young you have a kind of necessity, I love to define the first level of communication that concerns the musicians, artists, the ones who need to express what we think. They write songs, they must shout, they must go in the streets, they must cry, they must say something. They have a deep need that are unable to control and whose drive fail to recognize, they do not know where it is born, which is the cause of it. Then there is a second level, which I began to appreciate later, the level of the speaker because he has a goal to achieve. “
"There is a phrase that I love very much, if I remember correctly of S. Augustine: 'Quid est veritas, vir adest here'. It is a kind of anagram it says: what is the truth, it is the man here now. That, if you like, is the third level of communication, when you break the relationship between fiction and reality, for example, when a politician breaks the game of the sentence that he is saying. We can not hope to see, for example at 'Porta a Porta', a politician who should say what the cause that moves the dynamic power of a country really is. Why is too complicated, not only because it is difficult to explain how things stand, but because the representation is the only way through which a viewer can become curious. When I used to watch politicians on television, as a boy, I said to myself: I think that everything is so absurd. Asking myself this question, as if I had been a person who was limited to understand, I began to understand that there is a game, there are phrases, there are ways in which things are said or things that cannot e said, but they are understood. And through this game, this representation, which is fundamental from ancient times, it is possible to outline a real path within a civilization. Because the truth cannot be said, the representation in the game of the parties becomes the mechanism by means of which we can move forward. When this game of fiction breaks, as Carmelo Bene would say, the obscene emerges, that is what is not in fiction, is out of the scene, inside the show. This is not just the obscene of the interception, about which we are talking about these days, the obscene is when, and for example, a politician starts telling the truth. “
"I read yesterday on “La Repubblica” an article that impressed me, it was entitled "The Right is not intimidated.” I read the final part. "After the event, the Secretary of Udc, Lorenzo Cesa, stops to reflect on the black week of the centre-right, of the money  of Udc from the scandal to the involvement of the “azzurro” (blue) Raffaele Fitto on bribes in the Pugliese health. 'A politician' - notes Cesa - 'has the duty to ask why these things pop up all together. "It is impressive, because some are old stories and it seems that someone has kept them warm in a tray. Cesa does not think of a manoeuvre of the judges as much as to a welding between occult and foreign powers. In the property of some print media, which makes a lot of money from these surveys, there are foreign groups. Perhaps the interest is to weaken the whole Italian political system, ' last year the LD, today the House of Freedom, to buy on sale other pieces of Italy, perhaps some banks ".”So, for the little that I understand, being in the world today where I live, this is a truth. It is one of those things you could not say. The fact that today a politician says something like this makes me realize that there is really something, a truth that you begin to say, and that game which usually needs to be done, of apparent fiction in order to take forward the country is broken. And it is why, from my point of view, of a 32 old, is worrying. I liked it a lot when at a certain point I realized how the world of intelligent adults works: When I began to realize that there are intelligent people I experienced a feeling of conquest. I said I wanted to go forward, that there is a path to be taken, because if a child does not understand that representation and the dynamics behind, he remains completely stuck, but if he understands, he begins to have an ambition, to understand that he can begin to sit at a table. The need to understand more than this fiction is essential as the maintenance of this game of fictions. "For a year and a half I had travelled in China, Japan, Iran, India and Russia. In Japan a politician asked me to turn off the camera and told me: there is a not a big difference between you Italians and us Japanese, because we all lost the war, but that we are aware of that. And when a nation lowers its head all together is still a people. This sentence comforted me: it was a moment, after an hour and a half of interview, private sincerity, which an intelligent person dedicated me, and gave me an awareness that is not to be resold or used to make instrumentally the boom of a newspaper. I do not believe that the moral problem of culture, of journalism and the many problems of our country can be dealt directly. I believe that at the root of these problems there is essentially a big problem, namely that a country that does not have a true effort to have a political identity, to have a culture that should pursue a political, functional and pragmatic plan, a journalism of a certain kind. I challenge that in England things are good, they won the war, journalism represents real investigation, and there is a union of journalists fully respecting the identity and the interests of the country. In Italy it often happens to see, and I quote Mattei, Italians who, incredibly, seem to be fans of other teams. I am not talking about football, but about a real interest, this is something that astonishes me, not because I want to be a nationalist, but because I was born here and if there's a way to where things might be okay is that everyone, starting from where it is located, can open a dialogue with other peoples. Through the diversity and the dialogue between many people there is a win-win situation for all. We must begin, slowly, to say such things, and this does not mean accusing someone, being angry because we are colonized, it does not mean carrying out demonstrations in the streets, it means only beginning to be aware, because awareness is the first step to really change things. As long as a person does not really understand what his illness is, seeking a cure is absolutely useless. "

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