A Facebook group in Italy entitled "the dignity of journalists and the respect of citizens" and created on the evening of Saturday 27 February to protest an incorrect statement made by a journalist on the TG1 news programme the previous day has attracted almost 140,000 members in a few days.
The journalist's "false information" was that David Mills, the British lawyer involved in a legal battle for allegedly accepting a bribe from Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, had been acquitted. In fact, the case had been thrown out of a Milan court under Italy's statute of limitations because too much time had elapsed since the alleged crime. Mills was ordered to pay €250,000 to the Italian state for damaging its image, the Times reported. A related corruption case against Berlusconi himself is likely to be thrown out also.
TG1 is on a state-owned RAI channel, and therefore it is possible that the journalist's statement could be interpreted as an intentional attempt to mislead viewers over a case that involved the prime minister. Whether this was in fact the case is not what the Facebookers are protesting: what is important is that the statement was untrue.
The Facebook group is centered around a letter written by Arianna Ciccone, founder and director of the annual International Journalism Festival, addressed to the president of the Italian National Journalists' Association Lorenzo del Boca and two RAI executives. In it, she argues that this is not about politics, but about "the professional code of conduct and the fundamental role of journalism" and she calls for "an exemplary reaction from the Association to an episode that humiliates the journalistic profession and the citizens of this country" and apologies from TG1 for this inaccurate report.
As joining the group represents signing the petition, the letter now carries nearly 140,000 signatures and the creators of the group, Ciccone and journalist Paola Avon, plan to present it to RAI tomorrow morning. According to an article on Agoravox, an Italian citizen journalism portal, no Facebook group in Italy has ever attracted so many members so quickly.
This episode indicates both concern in Italy over standards of journalism and the increasing influence of social media in the country. Demonstrators have taken to using Facebook, Twitter and blogs to organize rallies calling for the prime minister's resignation, for example.